Does the title song of a Bond movie really matter?

New SPECTRE poster

New SPECTRE poster

In the past few days, there have been reports, speculation, etc., about who may be perform the title of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s a question that isn’t being asked much: Does the title song, or the selection of a title song performer, really matter that much for a James Bond movie?

For example, the 2006 Casino Royale got a lot of good reviews and is held is high opinion by a lot of fans. But very little of that has to do with “You Know My Name,” the song played over the main titles.

Meanwhile, the title song to 1967’s You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Nancy Sinatra, is considered one of the best 007 title songs.

Yet, a lot of fans feel the film You Only Live Twice isn’t up to the standards of the first four Bond films made by Eon Productions. Part of that stems from how it was the first movie to throw out the main plot of an Ian Fleming novel.

For that matter, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another highly regarded Bond film. It didn’t even have a title song. Instead it had a Barry instrumental for the main titles. It was the last time the main titles didn’t feature a song.

Yes, a good title song can enhance the movie (“Nobody Does It Better” for The Spy Who Loved Me being an example), but it’s rarely make or break. In the 21st century, however, the sort of perspective is in short supply.

An announcement may be coming Tuesday. Meanwhile, over at the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE there’s an attempt to make sense of the latest news.

Common thread in 007 scripts: Making Bond bigger

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

There’s something a number of James Bond scripts have in common: There are attempts to build up supporting characters. But in the end, there’s only one top dog. And his name is Bond, James Bond.

007 collector Gary J. Firuta has provided copies of a number of Bond scripts. In a June 1966 draft, screenwriter Roald Dahl had Japanese agent Suki more of an active participant in the Kobe docks action sequence. Both Bond and Suki are shooting it out with thugs at one point. In the final film, however, agent Aki doesn’t do a whole lot, except flee to report to Japanese spy chief Tiger Tanaka.

In both Jack Whittingham’s first draft for what would become Thunderball as well as a later Richard Maibaum-John Hopkins draft, Felix Leiter also is more of an active participant in events. In the final 1965 film, Felix (Rik Van Nutter) gets punched by 007 in the stomach (so Felix won’t say “007” before Bond does so) and watches Bond (Sean Connery) do his thing.

In Richard Maibaum’s rewrite for The Man With the Golden Gun, Lt. Hip *and his nieces* infiltrate the martial arts school where an abducted Bond has been taken. They end up saving him from being finished off by prized pupil Chula. Not so in the final movie, where Bond (at the last second) fights off Chula and escapes *and then* encounters Hip and the nieces.

Finally, here’s an example the blog CITED IN 2009 about the differences between the Goldfinger novel and film. In Ian Fleming’s novel, it was Bond’s caddie who figured out how Goldfinger was cheating. In the film, Bond does it by himself while the caddie nods his approval.

1966: Roald Dahl finds Twice is the only way to Live

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only Live Twice poster

When Roald Dahl handed in his June 17, 1966, draft of You Only Live Twice, things were getting tight.

The fifth James Bond film produced by Eon Productions would begin filming in a few weeks, on July 4. Dahl, taking over from American writer Harold Jack Bloom, had jettisoned the plot of Ian Fleming‘s 1964 novel. Dahl’s story would try to out-Thunderball Thunderball in terms of spectacle.

The Spy Commander reviewed a copy of Dahl’s draft, thanks to Bond collector Gary J. Firuta. The draft has some pages that were updated in mid-July after the start of filming.

Not surprisingly, the draft largely resembles the final film. But there are still a number of interesting differences. When this draft was completed, there was no helicopter with a giant magnet. The Little Nellie helicopter was present, but it didn’t have all the gadgets it’d have in the movie.

Dahl even included an Ian Fleming-ism that would be stripped from the final film. Both Tiger Tanaka and Japanese agent Suki (renamed Aki after actress Akiko Wakabayashi was cast) address Bond as “Bondo-san” in the draft.

In the novel (Chapter 6, Tiger, Tiger!) Tanaka explains that Bond-san sounds too much like bon-san, or “a priest, a graybeard.” Also, Tiger says, hard consonants aren’t easy for Japanese, so “when these occur in a foreign word, we add an O.” This isn’t included in Dahl’s draft but “Bondo-san” is used anyway. It’d be dropped from the 1967 movie.

In the pre-titles sequence, the most significant change is the American spacecraft is called Gemini (as in real life at the time). Some scenes play longer and there’s more dialogue, but it’s mostly as viewers of the film know it. The sequence ends with Bond apparently being killed.

After the titles, Bond’s “funeral” takes place. Again, dialogue is different. Aboard a submarine, Bond bums a cigarette from M when he says the only ill effect he was feeling was “a slight lack of nicotine.” Bond also uses the lit cigarette to light the paper with his contact address in Tokyo.

Interestingly, Bond only has 10 days to act before the next U.S. space flight, instead of 20 as in the movie. After he’s done with M, Bond gives Moneypenny a kiss. She does not give him a copy of Instant Japanese and 007 doesn’t say he took a first in Oriental languages at Cambridge.

Bond meets up with his contact, Henderson. Bond kicks the shin of Henderson’s false leg to ensure he’s the right person. Henderson makes martinis. “Shaken not stirred? That *was* right, wasn’t it?” Apparently, it wasn’t Dahl’s fault that the film has Henderson stirring the martinis and Bond declares they’re “perfect.”

Sometime later, after Henderson’s death and Bond has been to Osato Chemical, 007 meets Tiger Tanaka. As in the film, he falls down a chute, through a door and lands into a comfortable chair.

Tiger, in this draft, provides more information. Had it not been Bond, computers “would very quickly have redirected the chute and you’d have been in a much hotter seat than that one.”

As in the film, Tiger takes Bond to his house. 007 asks the Japanese Secret Service chief if his wife’s at home.

“Me, a wife?” Tiger replies. “Never! In matters of this sort, I think I am very much the Japanese equivalent of Bondo-san.” Or Derek Flint based on the number of women present in the house.

Bond and Tiger first go to “sweat boxes” before they’re washed by the Japanese women. It’s here that the two men compare notes. Tiger is “offended” when Bond says Mr. Osato isn’t big enough to be behind the hijacking of American spacecraft. When Tiger asks who is large enough, Bond says, “Nobody…unless it could my old friends in the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.” The finished film wouldn’t bother to say what SPECTRE stood for.

Now it’s time to be washed. “It is noticeable that the TWO GIRLS helping TANAKA are unable to keep their eyes off BOND,” according to the stage directions. Shortly thereafter, “all FOUR GIRLS have quietly slid over to BOND, leaving TANAKA alone.”

Tiger bellows for the women to come back. “The FOUR GIRLS ignore TANAKA,” the stage directions say. “They rinse soap off BOND and help him into the bath. TANAKA roars at them in Japanese, threatening them with terrible punishments.” One could only imagine what 21st century audiences would make of this.

As for what it is about Bond that fascinates the women, Tiger says: “It is nothing but your ape-like appearance…All Japanese men are blessed with exceptionally clean smooth skin. We consider hair on the chest to be obnoxious.”

Bond has a nice comeback:

(looking at the FOUR GIRLS lined up at the edge of the bath)
What are they waiting for now?

The next day, as in the film, Bond goes undercover to meet Mr. Osato. When Osato uses the X-ray device in his desk to check out Bond, “BOND’S REVOLVER is very prominent.” Yet, later in the movie, Blofeld says the gun is a Walther PPK, which most assuredly isn’t a revolver. Details, details.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Osato orders Bond killed. Suki saves him and the pair get away in her while but are pursued by thugs in a sedan. Suki requests the “usual reception” from Tiger but in this script that takes a different form.

For thing, Suki tells the Japanese Secret Service chief that she’s “heading for Street X as fast as possible.”

Tiger is in his office. He “flicks speak-box switch, and begins to shout into box with great rapidity and urgently in Japanese,” according to the stage directions. We see “TWO JAPANESE MEN” receive orders in Japanese.

Soon after, Suki’s car “swerves into a deserted alley” with the thugs in the sedan still in pursuit.

Suki “begins to SOUND HORN…Suddenly, ONE BUILDING on either side fo the street dislodges itself from the other houses and slides forward. The buildings meet in street centre, forming a brick wall.” The sedan of the thugs “crashes into the wall and explodes in a sheet of flame.”

Much of what happens next mimics the finished movie, though many of the scenes have more dialogue. Little Nellie doesn’t have all the explosive power it’d have in the film. But he mini-copter has other gadgets such as “a kind of wire fishing-net” that fouls the rotor-blade of one of the SPECTRE helicopters menacing Bond.

The deaths of two women characters also are different in this draft than the final film. Assassin Helga walks across a bridge at SPECTRE HQs that’s over a lava pool. Blofeld pulls lever, the bridge drops “like a trap door” and she goes into the lava.

When Suki dies from being poisoned, Bond is more affected than when Aki perishes in the film.

BOND, visibly distressed, stares at the girl he is carrying. Then he holds her close, lays his cheek against hers. He walks away with her, and sits down, still holding her in his arms.”

Still later, on the Ama island, Bond and Kissy (following their phony marriage that’s part of Bond’s cover) investigate a tunnel where an Ama diver died. As in the film, they discover poison gas and dive into the water to save themselves.

The stage directions have one major difference. After reaching safety, “BOND is lying on his back. He has more or less recovered. Much of his Japanese make-up has come off in the water. (NOTE: During the next few scenes, he should revert, as inconspicuously as possible, to being non-Japanese.)”

Finally, there’s the big Blofeld reveal. Dahl’s script attempts to make the most of it.

CAMERA reaches BLOFELD’S FACE. And what a face it is! We see reflected therein all the evil in the world. The eyes, greatly magnified behind steel-rimmed pebble glasses, are like the eyes of an intelligent octopus — all black, with no whites around them at all. The skin of the cheeks is pock-marked. The ears protrude slightly, the jaw is prognathus. CAMERA STAYS CLOSE on FACE.

There’s more, of course, but suffice to say there was still a lot of work to do before You Only Live Twice was ready for theaters in the summer of 1967.

The draft is 142 pages, meaning the movie should have been 142 minutes. The final movie came in at just under two hours, with many scenes considerably tighter than they appear in this draft.

Our modest proposals for click bait 007 lists

Bond had become bored by the click bait lists

Bond had become bored by the click bait lists

WHAT CULTURE, an entertainment website consisting primarily of “click bait” lists and photo galleries, may have topped itself this time: 25 Greatest Ever James Bond Villains.

Stop and think about that for a moment. The 007 film series produced by Eon Productions consists of 23 (soon to be 24, with SPECTRE) movies. Toss in the two non-Eon movies (the 1967 Casino Royale spoof and 1983’s Never Say Never Again), you reach 25, soon to be 26.

The 25 greatest James Bond villains of all time? Not exactly a high bar for a “greatest ever” list — even if you assume each film has an average of two, a mastermind and a lead thug.

If that’s now the standard, perhaps we’ll soon see “click bait” lists:

25 hottest James Bond women: The whole point of “click bait” is to get readers to click on the story and, with photo galleries, get them to keep clicking. The more clicks, the better the ad revenue. Well, sex usually sells and such a list/photo gallery would include lots of photos of women in skimpy bathing suits.

It works on a grander scale for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. With Bond actresses, a number of them have posed either in swimsuits or less.

Note: This blog, back in 2008 when it was associated with the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (1997-2014), ran a post called ZOO’s Top 10 Sexiest Bond Girls. It’s still the most clicked upon individual post after all these years. (The No. 1 slot is the main website address for the blog.) And that post only had one thumbnail photo of You Only Live Twice’s Mie Hama. (We don’t get any ad revenue. If you see an ad on a post, is collecting the money.)

Top 20 James Bond cars: After sex, comes automobiles. Photo galleries featuring cars are often good as “click bait.” Twenty-five might be stretching things, but 20 may be a more manageable number while providing the appearance of standards.

Top 15 James Bond aircraft: Aircraft can be visually appealing. With the Bond series, a number would probably be helicopters, including the famous Little Nellie mini-copter from You Only Live Twice. The trick would be to start with No. 15 and work your way up, to keep readers clicking away, wondering when they’d see Little Nellie.

Top 10 Most Overrated James Bond movies: One way to get readers to click is to make them mad. By setting the number at 10, chances are you’d offend a wide range of 007 fans and get them to click all the more.

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 bio (where his name is spelled Rietty), which lists 256 acting credits.

Elon Musk and Blofeld, the sequel

Elon Musk photo on Twitter on April 29.

Elon Musk photo on Twitter.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, really, really likes to compare himself to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond’s arch enemy.

This week, SpaceX had a much-publicized launch. It didn’t go as planned. Here’s an excerpt from CNN’S WEBSITE:

(CNN)—SpaceX on Tuesday launched a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying an uncrewed cargo spacecraft called Dragon on a flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station.

That was the easy part. In a difficult bid to land a rocket stage on a floating barge for the first time, the private space exploration company was unsuccessful.

Musk, whose photo on Twitter evokes Blofeld as well as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, had been more optimistic about the outcome. And, in doing so, *again* evoked Blofeld, specifically as depicted in You Only Live Twice:

Musk was less jovial after the landing failure.

MI6 Confidential looks at Lewis Gilbert’s 007 films

A Moonraker poster

A Moonraker poster

MI6 Confidential’s new issue takes a look at the “Monorail Trilogy” of director Lewis Gilbert’s three 007 films: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979)

The publication says articles in the issue include new interviews with Gilbert, 95, and Ken Adam, 94, who was production designer on all three movies.

Gilbert’s three 007 films were spectacles, which included massive sets and big action sequences. Adam designed, among other things, SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters in Twice, a tanker that could capture submarines in Spy and an orbiting space station in Moonraker.

Issue 30 of the publication also includes an article on Richard Kiel (1939-2014), who played henchman Jaws in Spy and Moonraker, and a story about the poster artwork of Robert McGinnis.

For information about ordering, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros.


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