James Bond

Bond Legacy: The Living Daylights

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They nearly brought back Roger Moore again? Wow, did I dodge a bullet there or what!

When BlogalongaBond first started, there were two certainties as far as Bond was concerned; that Sean Connery would be held up as the gold standard to which all others would be compared, and that pretty much everyone would have a different favourite Bond. My mother won’t actually watch Bond films any more, so convinced is she that Connery is unimpeachable in the Bond stakes and that anyone else would pale so much by comparison that they wouldn’t even be worth her time. For pretty much everyone else, the grimness of the later Moore years is over, and we come into the modern Bonds. For me and for many others of my generation, Timothy Dalton was the first new Bond in my lifetime. He was also the first new Bond in the sense that my house got its first VCR in 1985, so the Dalton Bonds were the first that I was able to watch in the comfort of my own home about the time that they were released. Thus Timothy will always be the tiniest Bond in my overly literal mind.

But it takes a big man to impose himself in a series that was becoming so stale you could practically see the fetid bacterial cultures forming up there on screen. That man, a long time candidate who now seemed in prime position, was Pierce Brosnan. Sadly for Pierce, some scheduling shenanigans at NBC kept him tied to his Remington Steele role for six more episodes, just long enough to rule him out of the Bond timeframe and instead to let someone who’d been thought of even longer as a possible Bond sneak in. Step forward one Timothy Dalton.

Both Dalton and The Living Daylights get a lot of things right that the series had been getting badly wrong. Dalton is belivably stern and occasionally patronising, but in a very satisfying manner, where Moore had lost that sense of quiet authority as age overtook him, and where Dalton’s quips are frothy and entertaining, Moore had become dangerously lecherous and positively leering. The action scenes are also ratcheted up by several levels of intensity, and the set pieces are some of the best in the series since the Seventies. The overall tone is more even and some of the wilder excesses are reined in, making The Living Daylights the most satisfying Bond film since The Spy Who Loved Me.

But enough of that, what we’re concerned with in Bond Legacy is the lasting impact that these films have had on each other and the world at large, and there’s still mean on them bones even fifteen films in.

1. Putting the (re-)boot in

The dinner dress round had gone well, but they were dreading the swimwear parade.

With a new Bond came a change in tone and a leading man as different to his predecessor as Lazenby was to Connery. But this time that change drove a shift in the tone, and it wouldn’t be the first time in the next couple of decades that a change in personnel would drive a change in ethos in the Bond films. The Living Daylights was almost conceived as a prequel, intented as a full reboot of the franchise, but that fresh slate was another twenty years away, and even then it still had Dame Judi Dench sprawled all over it.

But the coming of Dalton, Brosnan and Craig has seen a rethink in style and tone each time, and The Living Daylights was the first to really show that the mould really can be broken, or even thrown away and started with afresh, as long as you keep enough of these legacy elements to ground the audience.

2. Double trouble

There was one change afoot on the musical front as well, as while John Barry was still providing excellent music (and even gets an onscreen cameo this time around), the main public focus as far as music in Bond is concerned has always been the title track. Duran Duran had hit number 1 in the US with A View To A Kill, a first for the series, and that in trun reinforced the need in the producer’s minds to have a big name act to write the theme tune, and indeed sing the theme tune.

So Chrissie Hynde got shuffled to the end credits, and A-ha burbled out The Living Daylights once John Barry had sufficiently Bonded up the backing track. (Hynde can also be heard on the evil milkman’s Walkman, so she didn’t do badly.) But this started a trend of different tracks on the opening and closing credits, with often the composer’s first choice – and consequently the better tune – getting shunted to the end credits, rather than being an accompaniment to the usual parade of scantily clad ladies in fantasy settings that kicks off proceedings.

3. The name’s Aston. Martin Aston. No, wait…

The Grease remake needed a bit of work, but Dalton’s Zuko had a definite edge.

The other notable feature about The Living Daylights is the return of the Aston Martin. James Bond’s vehicle of choice had been a prominent feature in the Sixties, but apart from a blink and you’ll miss it showing in Diamonds Are Forever had been largely absent. Dalton’s debut might have seen a V8 Vantage Volante rather than the earlier DB5 or DBS, but The Living Daylights sees the return of the classic car maker with some tooling about on the ice that was ripped off homaged in Die Another Day. Only two of the Bond films made since this one haven’t featured an Aston of some variety, and for many men, myself included, an Aston Martin would be near the top of the shopping list if our numbers ever came up on the lottery. Ideally one with giant rockets and an ejector seat. (Well, if money’s no object…)

Next time: Somehow I have to break the news gently, that I’m not a huge fan of License To Kill. Gulp.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: For Your Eyes Only

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When she saw Octopussy, Melina regretted not taking her earlier opportunity to end it all.

Is it really a whole year since we started rewatching Bond films? Twelve months, and a round dozen films, and we now reach the point of no return – less films ahead of us than behind. For many others on this journey, it will actually get easier as generally better perceived Bonds will get their turn and the films will improve after the early Eighties fallow period. For me, each film gets harder, as my theory that each film has a legacy has less time to actually come to pass and each individual legacy becomes that much harder to pin down.

I had consoled myself with the thought that at least there was one more watchable Roger Moore film to come, but I was completely unprepared for the start of For Your Eyes Only. The worst pre-credits sequence of the entire series, it’s laughably bad and makes most of Moonraker look a work of art in comparison. From the decision to bring back Blofeld and then turn him into a pantomime caricature, to the whistle as Bond drops him down a giant chimney (the worst sound effect in the series since The Man With The Golden Gun), it’s a start from which most Bond films would struggle to recover.

Yet, more in line with my expectations, FYEO pulls it off. Generally reverting to a more serious and realistic tone than Moonraker – apart from the should-be-laughable-but-it-actually-made-me-weep-tiny-tears Margaret Thatcher scene at the end – Roger Moore is once again on top form and just about belies his increasing age, for probably the last time in the series, thanks to extensive use of soft focus and lens vaseline (sadly, by the time of Octopussy, even that won’t be enough). There’s also a sensible distribution of Bond girls, and James sensibly draws the line at the shouty one with pigtails young enough to be his daughter.

It’s also one of the more MacGuffin based Bonds, with the ATAC machine offering a tangible distraction for both sides to get their hands on. It also sees a shifting in Anglo-Russian relations (those of you playing the Bond Legacy drinking game, take a swig now) with General Gogol firmly on the other side, rather than hovering shadily in the middle. There’s some decent, rather than spectacular, action sequences and it all slips down fairly easily, although it might be a little forgettable a couple of hours after you’ve watched it.

Thankfully there’s still a few legacies to be had, before it’s all destined to go horribly wrong next month.

1. Car chases can be as effective without the gadgets

Bond wasn't convinced at the hire car company's idea of an "upgrade".

There might have been a variety of different cars or styles of driving over the past twenty years of Bond films, but generally Bond has been seen in quality motors, and even when he hasn’t – for example, The Man With The Golden Gun – the stunt has been spectacular enough or the rest of the driving mundane enough for it not to matter. But for the first time in the Bond series here, James is forced to make the best of a bad job, and works wonders with his Citroen 2CV, taking it off road even after Melina has managed to roll it trying to take a simple right turn. Women drivers, eh…

I’m sure Jason Bourne would like to think his various escapades in clapped out old bangers were showing a new or innovative side, a world away from the fast car sheen of the James Bond films, but Bond has proved here he can slum it with the best of them. One thing though; I’d have a word with Q about that ridiculously over-zealous anti-theft device if I were you, James.

2. The regeneration game

Bond visiting his wife's grave for the first time in over a decade finally gave Blofeld his window of opportunity...

While the characters have always had the same names, the Bond series had never made it as explicitly clear about the continuity of the character as it does here. So Roger Moore’s Bond is definitely the same Bond as George Lazenby’s Bond, even though they look different. Well, either that, or they both happen to have a wife called Teresa who died in 1969. Which, presuming that both films took place in the current year, is twelve years ago. Unless this isn’t actually 1981, or the whole opening is some form of psychotic episode on Bond’s part, driven to twelve years of grief over the death of his wife.

Anyway, the films would make further allusions to the fact that Bond had lost a loved one in tragic circumstances, right up as far as The World Is Not Enough, so assuming Bond was the same age as Tracy in the films (which he almost certainly wasn’t), and that film is also contemporary, Pierce Brosnan would have been playing a character well into his fifties, for which he was looking remarkably good. Inspiring the hard men of the world, Jack Bauer (born 1966) would have been well into his fifties by the end of 24 if season 1 of that show was contemporary and the gaps between seasons were correct, and if John McClane was 31 or older in Die Hard – quite likely as he’d been a cop for 11 years at that point – it would put him into his sixth decade by the time of Die Hard 4.0, and certainly well past 50 by the time of the upcoming A Good Day To Die Hard. (And you thought Skyfall was a rubbish title.)

This, of course, was unceremoniously pissed all over when Daniel Craig turned up, rebooted the continuity but M looked exactly the same as she did for the last Bond, even though she was a different M – or had a sex change and lost a lot of weight – than the M that didn’t appear in For Your Eyes Only, because he’d sadly died. Unless this is all still George Lazenby having an extended psychotic episode; on reflection, that might be easier to believe…

3. And Connery begat Moore, and Moore begat Brosnan

"No, I'M Spartacus!"

Speaking of Brosnan, the last legacy of this particular film was that it featured Cassandra Harris as Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Cassandra was also know as Mrs Pierce Brosnan, and hubby and Cubby met on set, whereupon Broccoli declared, “…if he can act… he’s my guy.” Fourteen years later, by which time Cubby was too infirm to work in any serious capacity on the series, he finally got his man. While it was Cassandra’s wish that her husband get the Bond job, sadly she died of cancer in 1991 and never saw him slip on the tux. Hopefully she would have been proud. Of Goldeneye, at least.

Next time: Go go Gadget innuendo. It’s Octopussy.

Bond Legacy: Moonraker

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Bond was seriously embarrassed at not being the only one to go to the fancy dress party in a cheap knock-off Kill Bill outfit.

I knew this day would come eventually. The day when I would have to confront my deepest, darkest fear. The day when the truth would finally be revealed to me, when innocence would be stripped away and when some of the most treasured memories of my childhood would be held to close scrutiny, and may never be the same again. Yes, BlogalongaBond has finally reached Moonraker, and it’s time to face the facts: Moonraker was the first James Bond film I ever saw, and when I was a kid, it was my favourite Bond film.

I could sit here and make excuses, but when you think about it, Moonraker is the ideal Bond film for kids. Much of this is down to the direction that Jaws has been taken in, his seeming indestructibility taking the series past the point of self-parody to a point where nothing feels dangerous or serious any more. But it’s also ideal for those, like children, with short attention spans; forget the three act structure, you attempt to stitch a start, middle and end out of the plot and you’ll barely cover half the film. What’s painfully clear is that the film I enjoyed as a child leaves rather more to be desired as an adult.

Some of that is also down to Bond, and by that I mean the way he’s written as much as the way he’s performed. Roger Moore has the most famous arched eyebrow in movies, and here it’s in full effect. The script gives him plenty to react to, so Roger gets through a full range of expressions of surprise, from mild surprise to total astonishment with a side order of smug self-satisfaction to boot. But there’s also some issues around Bond’s competence; even if you have got a hang-glider in your boat, would you really drive headlong for a giant waterfall when you could just turn around and drive back the other way? And let’s not even talk about Bond’s repeated attempts to punch a man with giant metal dentures IN THE FACE.

You might think this is awful, but it's the most succesful Bond movie ever. Mmm, residuals.

There are some good moments (the opening sky dive – up to the point where Jaws attempts to open his parachute – and the cable car fight – up to the point where Jaws attempts to stop the cable car – are notable), but there are also some strange moments, not least when Bond rocks up at a cross between Logan’s Run and a Miss World pageant and gets strangled by a giant snake. Thankfully, it’s not a total write-off; as well as bearing the questionable legacy of being the Bond film that got me into Bond films, there are a few lasting legacies from the, erm, (counts on fingers) eleventh Bond film.

1. Space travel will be a reality in my lifetime

The space shuttle hadn't yet had its operation, and was mounting everything in sight.

If I had to list my top three methods of vehicular mobilisation for our hero, then slots one and two would have an Aston Martin and a Lotus in them. Slot three, though, would be a space shuttle. (I had all three in my toy box under the sideboard when I was a kid; not real ones, of course – that would have been silly.)

Bond films have, especially more recently, wanted to be a reflection of modern technology and there’s no better example of the Bond movies being one step ahead of the real world than the use of the giant white space rockets. They’ve also given rise to the most unlikely trilogy in the world: The Space Shuttle Trilogy, consisting of Moonraker, Space Camp and Space Cowboys (all three of which would have been suitable titles for this film).

Sadly the space shuttles are no more, and their thirty year legacy has come to an end, and if I ever do get into space it’ll be in something a lot less classy – but if easySpace exists in my lifetime, I’m not proud.

2. Jaws 2: The Revenge

Despite his incredible stature, Jaws was surprisingly good at the game of Statues.

For the second time in the Seventies, a character made enough of an impact to be asked back again. (What’s this, Evangelist, I hear you cry? How can this be a legacy if it’s been done before?) I’ve already made reference to it, but Moonraker is the film that brought back a character, and in the process not only diminished the current film, but also unfairly tarnished the memory of the previous one as well. It’s now impossible to watch the Bond films in order without feeling a creeping sense of dread whenever Jaws is on screen in The Spy Who Loved Me at what’s to come. You would also be entirely within your rights to have developed an irrational hatred of pig tails while watching Moonraker, although maybe it’s not so irrational.

And that’s it. Slim pickings, but there’s still some moderate Moore to come. Keep the faith, people.

Next month: Bond drives a Citroen 2CV. Actually, forget the faith, abandon all hope, or just go and hide in a hole until Dalton gets here. It’s For Your Eyes Only.

Bond Legacy: The Spy Who Loved Me

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Even hiding underwater was not enough for Bond to escape the attention of the clampers and their tow truck.

When I was at university, I wasn’t afraid of voicing occasionally unpopular opinions, mainly because I’d rarely thought them through first. These opinions ranged from “I can do that death slide if I get top this pint up with whisky” (which caused me to have some form of hallucinatory episode before running four miles away) and “red wine is shit because it all tastes the same” (during a discussion on why my landlord and his good friend had joined the university wine society). Said landlord, who took me in on a month’s trial and kept me on after I nearly burned his house down three weeks in with a cooking oil fire, and who was consequently one of the finest and most upstanding men I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, was also of the view that Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond. So I wasn’t the only one had unpopular opinions. Oh wait, I thought it was Roger Moore.

You may have already read my Movie Memories blog on The Spy Who Loved Me, and in particular the childhood highlight that occurred about an hour and ten minutes in. But The Spy Who Loved Me was for me the quintessential Bond film when I was a child, and watching it again in the context of the other nine Bonds to come before it, I was relieved to see that it still stands up pretty well. No Bond since Goldfinger has had such a ready supply of iconic moments, from the Union Jack parachuting ski jump to the giant man with metal gnashers, and with some of Ken Adam’s best work on the series (of his five Oscar nominations, this was his only one for a Bond film), TSWLM doesn’t skimp on spectacle but also does much to further the archetypes of the series. Nonetheless, there are still a few fresh concepts that the tenth Bond outing manages to add to the already burgeoning formula.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bond Legacy: The Man With The Golden Gun

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Once again, the satnav had led them down an unexpected road.

We’re now over a third of the way along this epic journey through all cinematic Bondage, and many people will be preparing themselves for the fact that we’re going to be in the company of Sir Roger Moore until well into next year. As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, being the Bond I grew up on, but even I will admit that The Man With The Golden Gun is somewhat uneven, and rough around the edges. It’s a shame, because it had one of the best bad guys of the whole series, not just of the Moore era, in Francisco Scaramanga.

One thing that the Bond series has never really had is a true nemesis. Sure, Blofeld crops up a lot, but let’s face it, he’s the head of an international conglomerate of evil – Bond, when it comes down to it, is basically a minion with a giant ego who shoots well. (I hope I’m not going to come to regret that last sentence.) But many literary works have their evil doppelgänger – for Holmes, his Moriarty, for The Doctor his Master; someone who operates on a level playing field but who has the polar opposite in terms of ethos, and Scaramanga could, and probably should, have been that for Bond. There’s a fantastically tense dinner scene, which upholds fine British traditions of never letting anything like a war or a lethal grudge get in the way of a civilised meal, but other than that, it never feels like The Man With The Golden Gun fully grasps that opportunity with both hands. The lesson for anyone else coming up with a new literary or cinematic icon: if you’re going to have a nemesis, do give him as many scenes with your protagonist as possible.

Anyway, after we’ve got over that disappointment, and glossed over Lulu’s shouty opening song, there are still plenty of points of reference being created for both the rest of the Bond series and for movies in general.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bond Legacy: Live And Let Die

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For the love of God, help me, they've sewn me into this chair!

So Connery is gone, and a new era is upon us. Live And Let Die marks the start of the longest James Bond so far in terms of films made, being the first of a seven that few would describe as wholly magnificent. Yet, as with so many cultural icons, often the first person you see playing a role is the person you form the closest association with. As I’ve said before on this blog, Roger Moore is the Bond I grew up with, the one most often shown on ITV repeats (or indeed, first showings) during my childhood. And this was, at face value, an era of change – familiar trappings such as Q and briefings in M’s office, with Bond tossing onto Moneypenny’s hat stand before tossing off a casual declaration of love were out of the window. For shame.

But there were a number of firsts which helped to make this film stand out in the series, which sadly aren’t repeated enough to qualify as legacies. Sadly, this is the first of only two occasions on which the title track was nominated for an Oscar, and also the first of two times that Bond went hang-gliding. We can only hope that future high quality musicianship and unpowered aviation appear in Bond 23, at which point the legacy value might be reassessed. (Although frankly, I’m a fan of Jack White, but given his effort for Quantum Of Solace we’d have been better giving Jack Black a try, so anything will be an improvement this time around.) Read the rest of this entry »

Bond Legacy: Diamonds Are Forever

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Although he failed the audition for Red Dwarf, he was sure the spare heads would come in handy soon.

After last month’s dalliance with an Australian model for the Bond head honchos (and my dalliance with poetry for this particular thread), it’s business as usual for Bond this month. After On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the following conversation took place between Cubby Broccoli and Sean Connery:

“Sean, baby, it’s not working without you. Please come back.”
“Chertainly not.”
“Oh go on. Please.”
“Shurely I’m done with all this nonshenche?”
“We’ll give you a million dollars.”
“I’m schtill not schure.”
“A million and a quarter?”
“Shee you on the shet.”
 

So Connery was back for one last outing, and with him was yet another new Blofeld. At least Bond recognised him this time, but as to whether he was that bothered about the climactic events of the last film is anyone’s guess, as Bond pursues one of the more casual vendettas ever committed to celluloid. And casual is the name of the game – despite getting paid his own Fort Knox worth of cold, hard cash, this really does feel like a by-the-numbers Bond, with very little to make it stand out from previous entries. As a consequence, the legacy of this particular Bond is somewhat harder to come by than previous entries; if anything, it’s easier to spot the previous legacies of Connery’s Bonds repeating their effect on this one. Read the rest of this entry »

Bond Legacy: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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It could have been worse - I could have been Adam West.

Finally, a true turning point in our series of reflections on the James Bond films, and my sixth attempt to prove the influence of Bond on not only his other subsequent films but also the larger world of film. For this month, such a shift in the world and such a unique entry in the series it feels that I need a similarly unique entry to outline the legacy of this month’s Bondage. So I’ve written a poem, which is completely unique and in no way almost exactly like something I did just last month for the general blog.

Sean Connery’s Bonds had reached number five,
But felt his career was taking a dive,
So he left the series, and here in his place,
A man with the same name – but what of that face?
He’d been in commercials, he hailed from Australia,
He told Cubby Broccoli, “I’ll never fail ya,”
He wore a Rolex and knocked out a wrestler,
They hoped he’d bring energy worthy of Tesla.
 
Many more changes were also impending
But not from the book; especially the ending.
To set our Bond series on such a new course,
They actually stayed quite close to the source.
However the casting saw more than one swap out
And maybe the makers were guilty of cop out;
Some of their casting was frankly quite callous,
Replacing that Pleasance with Telly Savalas?
 
But our premier legacy for this fifth of sequels
Shows that the movies can all remain equals
Or even be better, their impact is lasting –
And not much, it seems, is down to the casting.
For this film has shown that the reboot’s a winner,
And while some would claim it to be a dog’s dinner,
The strength of the concept is clearly the key here,
And viewers still wanted to regularly be here.
 
Legacy two is in some way related,
For even as earlier Bonds become dated,
They all link together, as one single story,
Although some connections are just a tad hoary,
But clearly we must take this as all one account,
Even as fresh inconsistencies mount,
This new Bond has trappings of that other fellow,
But when he meets Blofeld they’re surely too mellow?
 
Sworn enemies surely would not be forgotten?
Some of this plotting’s a little bit rotten.
It all makes uneven this odd Blofeld triple,
But thankfully these changes couldn’t quite cripple
The series. Now sadly ol’ Lazenby wouldn’t
Be back for another, or he just couldn’t
Deal with the stresses of filling those shoes.
(It’s also a problem for some Doctor Whos.)
 
As well as reboots and Bond continuity,
Other small legacies come as gratuity.
Legacy three’s a peculiar notion
For this is the first Bond to feature slow motion
And also the flashback, enabling the story
For much grander notions and narrative glory.
(And contrary to those who’re appalled by the fact,
The fourth wall’s not broken, it remains quite intact
 
Through pre-credits dealings, so please do not judge
Based on misconceptions; but yes, it’s a fudge
And you could be forgiven for misunderstanding
This film from the year of Apollo’s moon landing.)
Legacy four’s also small and bizarre
For John Barry used an electric guitar
To enliven the soundtrack, and some synthesiser,
So the music was great; like a blue pill from Pfizer
 
Had been handed out to all soundtrack players
And the music throughout had so many layers
Thanks to Barry, Hal David, and old Louis Armstrong
Which links to the legacy that’s taken so long
To come to fruition. Yes, it’s love feelings
That only the Craig Bonds have had such deep dealings
With, and of course they are both so true
To this film’s first legacy – and actually, the first two!
 
The fact that Bond’s love life can be so forlorn
Has clear implications for Bauer and Bourne –
The life of a spy must be totally selfish
And dealings with women all casual and elfish.
One more Bond legacy this month I offer
To add to the bulging heredit’ry coffer
That Bond has bequeathed us from six films of great means,
This one inspired the Inception snow scenes.
 
So film number six, and six legacies here
But question why this film is not held as dear
As some of the other Bonds already produced.
I think that you’ve by now most likely deduced
That it had nothing to do with Diana Rigg
Replacing the girl with the face like a pig;
Yes, Bond’s shoddy casting made this film lack
So next time we’re getting Sean Connery back.
 

Next month: Bonds come and go, but Diamonds Are Forever. (See what I did there?)

 
 

Bond Legacy: Thunderball

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Two of these three things will be mentioned in this article. (Clue: Guitar Hero will not be mentioned in this article.)

Much has been the debate over the past two decades, as film has become increasingly self-referential and self-obsessed, as to whether or not sequels can outdo the originals. As Hollywood product becomes increasingly bereft of originality, thoughts have turned to idiotically named threequels and even obviously named fourquels to understand whether they can maintain the quality of their originals, or even maintain any level of quality at all. For a series currently embarking on its twentythirdquel, such concerns have long since passed for James Bond and his producers, but Thunderball undoubtedly marks a number of significant turning points in the series, and not all of them for the better.

1. There was a spectre cast over the series for over thirty years 

While it was actually the fourth in the series, there was a time when Thunderball would have been the original James Bond film. It’s an unfortunate theft, far more obvious than any other in the series, that led to this state of affairs; Fleming had been involved with several others in an attempt to get a film series based on the character off the ground, and so Thunderball was an original screenplay. When it didn’t pan out, Ian Fleming took his work for this, and also some work from drafts of the screenplay by Jack Whittingham, and turned them into a novel called Thunderball for his James Bond series.

McClory, McClory, tell us a story

Unfortunately this led to court action by the member of the group hired to produce the original series, Kevin McClory. McClory saw an opportunity to still bring the original vision to the screen, and in a court settlement McClory gained rights to nine different screenplay drafts and elements right down to Blofeld’s cat. The only stipulation was that McClory wouldn’t attempt to make another film using the elements for another twelve years. (In that time, you may recall a number of other EON productions which used Blofeld’s cat, and all of those other elements.)

When that twelve years expired, a period of two decades of attempting to milk this potential cash cow ensued. McClory had made little other success of his film producing career, but was financially well set from the Thunderball situation; he then proceeded to spend the rest of his life ploughing every last penny of those proceeds into attempts to retell the story. The first attempt, variously called Warhead 8 or James Bond Of The Secret Service, had the effect of causing EON to take SPECTRE out of The Spy Who Loved Me after early drafts.

Eventually, in 1983, we got another Sean Connery film, whose title we will never say. Never again would McClory manage to get anything on screen, but that didn’t stop him trying almost up until his death in 2006. The last and most significant attempt in 1997 was a collaboration with Sony, which culminated in Sony and MGM to settle rights issues almost like two parents dividing up the children in a messy divorce, with MGM getting all of Bond and Sony taking sole control of Spider-Man. Ironically, Sony then bought MGM in 2005, so that Sony ended up releasing Daniel Craig’s first effort in the tuxedo a year later.

But the actual rights themselves to those story elements still reside with someone, although it’s not actually 100% clear who at this point. SPECTRE may make a return to the series at some point, but the real spectre of the alternative, lower quality Bonds being produced maybe still hasn’t gone away to this day.

2. After this it wouldn’t be enough to just insert random formula elements

Still true to this day.

Thunderball does mark one particularly significant achievement – it remains, in adjusted dollars, the most successful Bond film both in America and worldwide, sitting at 27 on the all time American list and it would have been worth a few cents shy of one billion dollars in today’s money with the worldwide takings. But when you look at the first three Bond films, each actually brought something different to the table: Dr. No established the concept, From Russia With Love expanded it and Goldfinger took it to the verge of self parody.

Starting with Thunderball, opportunities for true innovation were limited and the cycle descended into a law of diminishing returns. Tellingly, the subsequent box office peaks have always occurred when a new Bond has been introduced to the franchise; dear Broccoli family, if you’re reading this, it doesn’t mean we want a new James Bond every film. Quite happy with Mr Craig for now, thank you very much.

3. It’s like, y’know, for kids – all that misogyny and casual violence

Forget GI Joe, pansy American soldier, if you want to play with toys then you need one of a man who’s not afraid to make a pass at anything in a skirt and to shoot a man in cold blood once he’s already dead. These are the kind of role models that a young boy needs (and given how many of my male friends over the years have attempted to shag anything that moves, it seems to have had an effect), and Thunderball was the first James Bond film to feature an action figure. Although frankly James, you might need to get a hem put on those trousers – a little long in the leg.

4. Forget bow ties and stetsons – jet packs are cool

You've already mentally made your own "shiny helmet" joke by now, haven't you?

If you’re telling me that you’ve never wanted a jet pack, then I will quote the “liar, liar, pants on fire” argument in rebuttal. From the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony to Kick-Ass, every possible application of jet pack technology screams “I want one” from the rooftops, which is where Bond has conveniently stowed his. And it packs away neatly in the boot of an Aston Martin as well, as long as your pursuers give you enough time to take it off. We still await the first actual jet pack chase in the series (and I’m not counting anything in Moonraker – jet packs in space just aren’t the same). That idea (c) The Movie Evangelist, 2011, by the way.

5. Widescreen was the way of the future

As you can see from the above picture, Bond was keen to get his car, his helmet and anything else he could lay his hands on into the widest spaces possible. This was the first film to appear in the Panavision 2.35:1 ratio, which is the widest widescreen in current common use and is ideal for capturing the full detail of long, thin things such as torpedo tubes and sandy beaches. By The Man With The Golden Gun, the series would become permanently in this ratio, and any action movie worth its salt these days will appear in a similar ratio.

6. Bond is just the first line of attack – you’ll get nothing in this game without henchmen


There was one major element of the series that hadn’t been truly and properly established at the time of Thunderball, and that was the massive henchman battle. Armies of men from both sides engage in a slightly soggy and disappointing truly epic battle which allows Bond to sneak in, relatively unnoticed, and confront the evil mastermind with whom he’s already spent a large part of the film having casual conversation, playing games, generally socialising, etc. This template of a large army of men on both sides who don’t actually have a conclusive effect on the outcome has become a staple of the series, and the requirement for a base to hold such significant forces became a real bonus for production designer Ken Adam, as we’ll see…

Next month: Pussy stroking galore. It’s You Only Live Twice.

Bond Legacy: Goldfinger

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This month’s strangest image got by simply Google image searching the title, “Goldfinger.” A lot less disturbing than last month, anyway. I did try Googling “Pussy Galore,” but you don’t want to know what happened. Although you can probably guess.

Each month, I’m considering the lasting legacy that the Bond films have left us, whether it be the effect they’ve had on the other Bond films or just films in general. Surely, though, there is no greater legacy left for us in Bond’s back catalogue than Goldfinger’s effect, for its legacy might just be Bond films themselves.

Undoubtedly popular as they were, and with plenty of source material still left to mine, the series was on its third entry, and could easily have begun to run out of steam. Even today, with the benefit of nearly fifty years of hindsight, the number of top quality third entries in a film franchise is not likely you to require more than your fingers when counting them up, so the chances of the Bond franchise continuing for as long as it has had to be pretty remote. Those chances would have surely gotten longer when considering what Goldfinger did, which was to take all of the groundwork so carefully laid around SPECTRE, and then proceed to completely ignore it, instead fashioning a standalone bad guy. But somehow they hit on the magic formula, the absolute jackpot of the complete male fantasy. (Yes, Zack Snyder, this is how to film a male fantasy – if anyone’s still even talking about Sucker Punch in fifty years, I’ll eat my hearing aid.)

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