Category Archives: Movies

On Site: Inside Stage 007!

In 1976, EON (Everything or Nothing) Productions began work on the tenth James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, their most ambitious effort to that date (estimated budget: $30 million).

No strangers to inventing wholly new exploits for the seemingly invincible 007, EON would this time do so at the behest of Bond`s creator, Ian Fleming; sensing that the source novel was not his best, Fleming licensed only the title and characters.

Borrowing heavily from You Only Live Twice [1967]–indeed, central villain Sigmund Stromberg [Curt Jurgens] was originally scripted as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. chieftain Ernst Stavro Blofeld–the resulting globe-trotting tale also tapped into the prevailing détente of the time as it follows Britain`s MI5 super-agent, James Bond (“Saintly” Roger Moore), and Russia`s seductive KGB operative, Anya Amasova (sensational Barbara Bach), as they cooperate to investigate the separate disappearances of their countries` respective nuclear submarines, Ranger and Potemkin.

Inspired by media revelations regarding the Howard Hughes-sponsored Glomar Explorer–outwardly a marine research vessel later revealed to conceal apparatus designed expressly for the covert recovery of a downed Soviet nuclear sub–Stromberg`s base of operations would be the Liparus, at first glance one of the largest oil tankers in the world (“After the Karl Marx, of course,” interjects Agent XXX.), but in reality housing a labyrinth of quays, holding cells, arsenal, control center and more, all conveniently traversed by dual elevators and twin, superconductive monorails.

Responsibility for both the concept and design fell upon renowned production designer Ken Adam. The clarity and single-mindedness of Adam`s vision is readily apparent; with the exception of the huge, illuminated control room globe, the set as realized is nearly identical to even his earliest sketches. Like his design for the Fort Knox bullion vaults of Goldfinger [1964], (for which Adam would receive his second BAFTA nomination), the Liparus seems wholly convincing no matter how impractical the reality of such a space–as evidenced by the near swamping of the sixty-three foot, twelve-ton “miniature” tanker on its shakedown cruise. As a nod to the unique look of … Spy … , Adam garnered a third Academy Award® nomination.

Having no desire to duplicate the impressive but decidedly wasteful effort required for a free-standing set along the lines of the volcano showcased in …Twice –the obvious progenitor of the submarine pens–there was nonetheless just one problem with Adam`s vision: no existing facility–aircraft hangars and warehouses included–could contain it. Producer Albert R. (“Cubby”) Broccoli`s solution: Build one. Thus ground was broken by Michael Brown–an architect with the Delta Doric Company–at famed Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath just outside London, England, in April 1976 for what came to be called the “007 Stage.” While others may make similar claims (for example, Streets of Fire [1982] boasted the largest “covered” set), the 007 Stage remains the largest fully enclosed, “silent” soundstage in the world, so big, in fact, fans must be employed to clear the fog that sometimes forms at its center.

German-born Adam, then 55, later observed:

The volcano was easier for me in a way because it was a completely imaginary concept. Nobody has seen the inside of a volcano. But here I was stuck with a supertanker. Basically that is very dull. *1

But he approached the job with fresh, unbiased thinking, choosing not to base his ideation on any existing maritime architecture plans.

I prefer to go that way. I know quite a lot about boats. These gigantic tankers are divided into individual compartments–bulkheads–where they store the fuel. I almost counter-designed against the hold of a tanker. *2

In order to meet the film`s deadline, the set and stage would be built almost simultaneously, with construction crews from Specialist Builders enclosing each section of the outer shell only after major corresponding components of the Liparus were in place. In some ways the Liparus was little more than a dressing applied to the interior walls of the stage and for this reason the one-time Klaus Adam focused on structural elements that could remain in place once filming ended. Final cost of the soundstage alone: approximately £600,000 (slightly more than one million in 1976 dollars).

A star in its own right, shooting on the “Jonah” set–the biblical nickname proffered by cast and crew–commenced in November, 1976. (On 5 December, then Prime Minister Sir Harold Lloyd conducted a ribbon-cutting for the press.) Though the submarine pens clearly made good use of a pre-existing 1.2 million-gallon tank, a newly added secondary tank allowed for full-size sinkings and other large-scale water effects. A mobile out-building at the north end of the stage allowed the Liparus bow doors to swing open while artful camera angles prevented audiences from seeing nearby Black Park and the otherwise landlocked truth of the locale.

Wishing to avoid the flat, harsh appearance of …Twice`s volcano, Ken Adam sought-out … Spy`s … cinematographer, Claude Renoir, grandson of famed impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir. Privately, Renoir made a sad confession: his eyesight failing, he could not make out the farther reaches of the set. Rather than further embarrass Renoir, the infamous director of another of Adam`s award-winning efforts, Dr.Strangelove [1963], was quietly consulted. Though the late Stanley Kubrick employed specialists on his own films, he was widely regarded as a master technician himself, having devised a variety of new methods for such landmark efforts as 2001:a space odyssey [1968] (on which Adam had declined the production designer`s post). Kubrick`s suggestion upon spending a long Sunday afternoon on the set? Incorporate functional lighting directly into the Liparus, greatly reducing the need for the enormous, glaring arc lights normally associated with filming in a large space. (Some twenty years later, Kubrick would embark on a more protracted stay in Stage 007 while directing Eyes Wide Shut.)

As luck would have it, that winter was one of the coldest on record in the UK, forcing cast and crew to don parkas and anoraks whenever the cameras weren`t actually rolling; in many scenes the actors` breath is clearly visible. Beyond near-freezing temperatures, on many days the production also had to contend with food, costumes, and make-up for nearly 600 extras. Further, any players issued fire arms were subject to strict safety regulations, notably the surrendering and inspection of hundreds of blank-firing–and, therefore, hazardous–Sten guns at every break in filming, including meals.

One final concession to reality was both budgetary and aesthetic: while a modern supertanker could indeed conceal a nuclear submarine averaging 600 feet in length, the resulting set would have rendered the actors and extras mere flyspecks. Adam instead reduced the subs to five-eighths scale, making the set more manageable both visually and financially.

Filming proceeded smoothly into the new year with only one serious mishap: during the climactic battle sequence, pyrotechnics accidentally ignited a portion of the control room. Only Adam`s precious fiberglass globe was significantly damaged though, despite heavy security, uniformed extras apparently made-off with a number of television monitors and other bits of set dressing during the evacuation procedure. The Liparus interiors ultimately wrapped on 26 January 1977.

While industry wags questioned the necessity of such a space, the 007 Stage has been in constant use since its completion, playing host to both the Superman and Indiana Jones series as well as later Bond entries. One of many advantages to utilizing the 007 Stage is that large scale “exteriors” (such as Batman`s [1989] Gotham City) can be built without thought to weather or the other uncertainties usually associated with filming on an outdoor lot or location.

As director Ridley Scottfilmed Legend, a far more calamitous fire erupted during the lunch hour on 27 June 1984, this time burning the stage to the ground. Rechristened the “Albert R. Broccoli Stage” on 7 January 1985 at the suggestion of Pinewood general manager Cyril Howard, the entire structure was miraculously rebuilt–with added fire safety features and additional square footage, again under the supervision of Michael Brown–in under five months, just in time for “Operation Main Strike” sequences of A View to a Kill [1985], the fourteenth Bond epic. New price tag: £1,000,000.

**The model of the Liparus shown in cutaway and revealing its superstructure was one hit of the Bond Weekend `99 in Las Vegas. Alan explains this collectible`s provenance–Matt Sherman

“The model was obtained by proxy at the Christie`s South Kensington [London] auction of James Bond memorabilia in September 1998, given a custom-fitted shipping crate by the neighboring firm of Cadagon-Tate, and delivered to the United States in mid-October by Federal Express.

The exact purpose of the miniature (Lot #95) is unknown. From footage included in the Mass Communications & Society film study series, director Lewis Gilbert can be seen with production designer Ken Adam discussing the various camera positions and cast movements using a somewhat larger though less detailed mock-up.

Christie`s claim that the model is a fan effort seems unfounded; a Bond devotee would likely havebeen more careful with the finish and added greater detail. The replica`s quality is closer to that which you would expect from an architectural firm. The probable explanation, then, is that the diorama was created by either EON, Pinewood, or both for the purposes of promoting The Spy Who Loved Me to potential exhibitors. That is, it was an expensive means of saying, “Look, look at what we`ve done here! How could you not want to show a film for which we`ve gone to such lengths?!”

The model was put-up for auction by a Mark Bamford having originally obtained it from a colleague who dealt directly with Pinewood Studios about 1977. Regrettably, said colleague passed away in 1988, thus no further information is available.

Contact with Bamford was coordinated by Sarah Hodgson of Christie`s South Kensington.

The miniature furnishings–such as Stromberg`s custom chair and console–as well as the over 100 figures–each taking approximately one hour to prepare (including, in many cases, sculpting their beret) and paint–were added in Winter 2000.

The sequence being filmed in the control room–Bond`s confrontation of Stromberg; their second such meeting–was shot on 13 December 1976, Curt Jurgen`s birthday.”

1* “Ken Adam: 007`s Designer,” Starlog, 9 (October 1977), p. 22. 2* Ibid.

–Alan D. Stephenson is one host of the annual Bond Collectors` Weekends, meeting this year in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is one of the leading 007 memorabilia collectors worldwide, and has been building his collection for 30 years. His 1998 museum show in California featured outstanding examples from his treasure trove…one of the largest 007 collections in the world.

Cross-Cultural Bonds: Seeing “Red”

“James Bond lives in a nightmarish world where laws are written at the point of a gun, where coercion and rape is considered valour and murder is a funny trick. All this is designed to teach people to accept the antics of American marines somewhere in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam or Her Majesty`s Intelligence agents in Hong Kong and Aden. Bond`s job is to guard the interests of the property class, and he is no better than the youths Hitler boasted he would bring up like wild beasts to be able to kill without thinking.

His creator is Ian Fleming, who poses as The Times correspondent in Russia in 1939 but was in truth a spy for the capitalist nations. Although he is now dead, James Bond cannot be allowed to die because he teaches those sent to kill in Vietnam, the Congo, the Dominican Republica and many other places.

It is no accident that sham agents of the Soviet counter-intelligence, represented in caricature form, invariably figure in the role of Bond`s opponents, because Bond kills right and left the men Fleming wanted to kill – Russians, Reds and Yellows. Bond is portrayed as a sort of white archangel destroying the impure races.

The Bond cult started in 1963 when the American leader, President Kennedy, unsuspecting that some American hero with the right to kill would shoot him, too, declared that Fleming`s books were his bedside reading.

As if by magic wand, everything changed. The mighty forces of reaction immediately gave the green light to Fleming. And in James Bond he has created a symbol of the civilisation which has used bombs to drown the voice of conscience.

The men and women who allow their talents to be used in the making of films about the exploits of this man are also guilty of furthering the shameful aims of the Western capitalists.”

… Above by Yuri Zhukov, from the Russiannewspaper Pravda, September 30, 1965

A real top-secret agent from a Western Power could penetrate the Iron Curtain, but not a fictitious character. The Soviet propaganda machine had an eagle eye, andthe notorious James Bond was banned in Russia. Things didn`t change when James Bond appeared on the world`s screens, even though the movie Bond was more politically correct (after all, in the film FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Bond`s opponents are not Russians, and Rosa Klebb, a traitor, betrays her own country). It didn`t change either when Sean Connery became involved in the American-Russian movie THE RED TENT (1969) or even when James Bond worked together with the Russian female spy Anya Amasova in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977). The ice hadn`t broken yet.

Occasional articles – similar to Zhukov`s – appeared in the Soviet media attacking Bond. In 1979 Soviet film critic Anna Marynova wrote in the Soviet weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta after seeing MOONRAKER that, “Although the Bond plots had changed in complexion since such openly anti-Soviet movies as FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE in the early 1960s, they still answer the dictates of bourgeois ideologists. […] “Moonraker” continues the tradition of all 11 Bondmania films, it has not only the cosmic but also the earthy values of mass culture – namely sex, violence and super-individualism.” She added that the Bond films have made approximately $500 million in “pure profit”, and that “It is the unlimited stupidity of James Bond films that explains their vitality.” Bulgarian critics and authors wrote essays about Western thrillers. But if you`d read AVAKOUM ZAKHOV VS. 07, which I have, you`d understand that even there, in the satellite Socialist countries, Soviet propaganda didn`t sleep then either.

It`s not entirely correct to say that the Bond films were completely banned in Russia. In fact, they could be shown in the Kremlin. You can`t deny that some high-ranking members of the Communist Party could love the Bond movies. It`s now commonly known that Yuri Andropov (ex-Chairman of the KGB & ex-Leader of the USSR) actually enjoyed the Bond films and preferred watching them in his personal Kremlin cinema-theatre. High-ranking members of the Communist Party could order any desired movie. Moreover, the Soviet Union, eager for a cash infusion of Hollywood money in Russia, officially invited Broccoli in April 1975 hoping that he and other American producers would film in Russia. Broccoli had always wanted to make a Bond film in the Soviet Union, especially given the title of his next film: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. According to Broccoli`s biography, When The Snow Melts, Broccoli brought a copy of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN for a special American Embassy screening – the American ambassador`s wife hosted the evening – which high-ranking Russian officials, including KGB members, attended. Broccoli claims that the Soviet officials “looked with some envy at the high artistic and technological quality of the production.” The Russians wanted Broccoli to make a film there… but not a Bond film. Dr Edward A. Aikazian, Council of Ministers for Science and Technology, explained that the USSR wasn`t ready for Bond`s decadent brand-name capitalist lifestyle. The President of Sovinfilm, Otar V. Teneishvili, and Broccoli discussed potential film projects including *The Cowboy and the Cossack*, however Warners had held a previous interest in the project, so Broccoli turned it down. They also wanted Broccoli to make a film about John Reed, the American communist who was buried in the Kremlin, however Broccoli wasn`t interested and declined. Warren Beatty eventually made the film: REDS. However, Broccoli was pleased to learn that Soviet filmmakers were so impressed with GOLDFINGER that Soviet film schools used that film to train future film directors.

Of course, certain Soviet people thought differently about Western culture – and of Bond – and they were the ones with some connection to the West, who had the right to travel abroad, and who were publishers and who seriously studied English. Someone would dare smuggle English paperbacks through customs, and others had the luck to get and read them; of course Fleming`s novels were among those paperbacks. Some of these people were surprised to discover that James Bond was a different fellow from the one Soviet propaganda constantly derided. A Russian critic, in his introduction to a Russian edition of a Fleming novel, described his first impression of James Bond. A friend of his once gave him a battered paperback. The book was in terrible condition and didn`t have a cover with the title. When he read it he decided his friend was mistaken. At first, he couldn`t believe that such a funny and non-serious novel was a plot of the notorious Ian Fleming – “an ex-spy and infamous anti-Soviet thriller-writer”. His friend assured him that it was an authentic Fleming novel: FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE.

One must clearly understand the Soviet censorship situation. A foreign-language novel deemed “Anti-Soviet” was a real hot thing on your hands. If you had enemies, they could skillfully use your having such literature to get you a one-way ticket to Siberia, or even an asylum.

What were “anti-Soviet” novels? Novels containing passages that propagandise an anti-Soviet way of life. A foreign modern novel could have been published if it criticised the “American way of life” or didn`t have any anti-Soviet ideas. You could get neutral novels by Agatha Christie, James Hadley Chase, Arthur Clark and Alistair MacLean. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE was a real hit, though Russian editors made slight plot changes.

The same thing happened with foreign movies and music groups. People very often compared “Bond bums” to “Beatles bums”.

Up to the mid 70s, rock-bands such as THE BEATLESDEEP PURPLELED ZEPPELINet al, weren`t banned. You just couldn`t buy or sell their albums at music-shops. Nevertheless, the albums were constantly smuggled into Russia, and you could get them illegally at flea-markets (tolkouchka). People who sold such things risked more than you.

FYI: once upon a time, in order to circumvent the law, a Russian record-company did release The Beatles` single GIRL, but had to write the following comment on the vinyl cover: an English folklore song.

Then in the mid 70s the censorship committee composed the black-list of banned groups that were supposed to “propagandise an anti-Soviet way of life”. Oddly, this list included mainly rock-bands such as AC/DC (Just imagine, Angus Young – an anti-Soviet saboteur! LOL!), METALLICAMANOWARKISS and PINK FLOYD. The reasons were sometimes ridiculous. PINK FLOYD wasn`t banned until they mentioned the name Brezhnev (then leader of the USSR) in a song.

I`ve intentionally mentioned the foreign-music problem. Radio-waves could penetrate the Iron Curtain, no matter how hard Soviet special radio-stations tried countering them. The BBC had the Russian language program SEVAOBOROT. Some Russians, whose radios could receive the BBC, heard that democratic program plus good world music. Seva Novgorodtsev narrated the program. He`s very notable. I`m sure every Bond-fan knows his face: he was the helicopter pilot in A VIEW TO A KILL`s pre-title sequence. (Seva still works for the Russian BBC channel and even has his own web-site: www.seva.ru – it`s a Russian-language site, but you can see his picture on the front page.)

Legal foreign music generally meant composers from satellite Socialist country, Italian and French bands and singers. Ditto foreign movies. Everybody knew French and Italian comedies with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pierre Richard and Andriano Celentano. But censorship was tough: erotic and over-cruel action scenes had to be cut. Sometimes translators could even change the dialogue`s meaning. Some of the movies, such as THE MAGNIFICENT ONE (1973, starring Belmondo), which I strongly recommend, and RETURN OF THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE (1974, Pierre Richard), were partly James Bond pastiches, but Russian audiences didn`t get the jokes about Bond because they hadn`t seen the Bond films.

After all, James Bond was supposed to be a communist enemy. He <i>is</i> a communist enemy. Who would permit such a hero to exist in a communist country?

The situation changed slightly in the early 80s, when the first VCRs appeared in the USSR. Those with enough money to buy VCRs finally had the opportunity to watch Hollywood movies at home. The first wave of videocassettes changed hands. It was illegal of course, and there were no movie-shops. The legal video market hadn`t yet begun. (Oddly enough, Russian movies began appearing on video only in the 90s, after the USSR fell.) But you can`t say it was the beginning of the video-piracy era. It would begin later, after Gorbachev`s perestroyka. In the early 80s videocassettes of movies labelled “Anti-Soviet” were the proverbial forbidden fruit. Several men would translate movies, (using various means to distort their voices), copy and disperse them among friends, who in turn would share them with their friends. But one had to be careful, since in those days, the word friend was similar to the term friend in John Gardner`s Bond novels. Your trusted “friend” could easily frame you. Being a KGB informer was a very popular career and way of making money. Informers were usually people who had been caught by the KGB and were now forced to work for them.

There were rumours that city streets were occasionally hit by KGB vans equipped with special scanners that could intercept a video-signal from a working VCR.

However, lucky people finally met fictional characters like Emmanuele, John Rambo, Indiana Jones, Dirty Harry, Darth Vader, Freddie Kruger, various ninjas, the real-life Bruce Lee and… James Bond. But after his eh… “confrontations” with Soviet soldiers in OCTOPUSSY, he continued to be banned.

I`ve mentioned Emmanuele on purpose. Bearing in mind tough censorship, you can imagine that such movies as Emmanuele were real bombs. Since there was no law concerning erotic and pornographic films, Emmanuele and 9 1/2 Weeks and some XXX-rated movies meant jail.

Then Gorbachev came on the scene, and the era of perestroyka and glasnost began. People tasted the air of freedom. In the late 80s, small private firms, the first video-saloons and video-kiosks began appearing.

Generally, video-saloons were rooms for approximately 50 people, with several rows of chairs, one VCR and several TVs plugged in parallel. A ticket cost 1 rouble. As a rule, video-saloons were in cinemas, big railroad stations and airports.

I sawmy first BOND movie at a video-saloon. It was DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. I was thirteen then. I had already known about James Bond from an Atari 130 computer game, but Ian Fleming`s name meant nothing to me. Nevertheless, the movie fascinated me, though I didn`t quite get the complicated story. Frankly, the plot of Diamonds Are Forever still puzzles me and I can`t say that it`s my favourite Bond film. It seems to me, that during production, the movie-crew indeed didn`t smoke tobacco, but something else. But it`s still my FIRST Bond movie, which makes it special.

In the early 90s, when Russian cinematography was almost dead, VHS-projectors were installed in some cinemas. The picture was projected onto the movie-screen. Audiences got bigger. As for video-kiosks, you could buy or order any desired movie. 1 cassette – 2 X 90min movies, or 1 X 120min movie + some clips or cartoons, mainly, TOM & JERRY. And erotica, of course. Prices varied because of constant inflation.

Video-piracy? Hard to say. One must remember that the <i>legal</i> video-market still hadn`t yet begun.

Around 1990, Fleming`snovels and short stories were published, generally in omnibus editions (2 in 1). Short stories were published discretely. In the beginning, I couldn`t tell which story was in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY or OCTOPUSSY. In some editions in those days, passages mentioning Russians villains were omitted. Some editions contained wrong information about Fleming. Some translations were very bad.

My first introduction into the world of the literary James Bond was the short story FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. The title was translated as An Eye For An EyeDR. NO was the first Bond novel I read.

Interestingly enough, COLONEL SUN was also published, but as far as I know, Pearson, Wood`s and all but one of Gardner`s novels haven`t, nor have THRILLING CITIES THE DIAMOND SMUGGLERS or CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.

Nevertheless, people finally met the most famous British secret agent – James Bond, and the pleasure was all theirs, I presume: the word “copyright” was a very abstract thing then, and I`m not sure that GLIDROSE knows about these editions. Mind you, in Russia, the word “copyright” is still an abstract thing…

Time was running. 1991. USSR ceased to exist. Democracy began. Censorship virtually ceased to exist. Music fans finally saw their idols METALLICA and AC/DC live at Tushino in Moscow. Video-saloons and video-kiosks didn`t disappear. It`s possible that video-saloons existed until about 1993-94. (In 1991, my father bought a VCR and I stopped visiting video-saloons.) At the same time, a big Russian company started selling legal video-cassettes, but the movies recorded on those cassettes weren`t the best Hollywood blockbusters. Personally I didn`t buy them. However, various video-kiosks (pirates) continued to sell such movies as THE TERMINATORFIRST BLOODCOBRACOMMANDO and various BOND movies, mainly, the latest ones (with Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton). And of course, I bought them.

1995. Tanks have hit St. Petersburg`s streets. Another revolution? In a way, yes: James Bond, driving a tank, in St. Petersburg, at last. Unfortunately, the advertising campaign wasn`t great, and I missed that moment and didn`t see the movie-crew shoot the new Bond film. This will make me sad forever, because I know that such a moment will never happen again.

I saw GOLDENEYE in late December of 1995. It was a kamernaja version – a pirate copy made by video-camera in some English or American cinema-theater. You can buy such pirate copies of any movie, even today. It`s supposed to be illegal, but authorities turn a blind eye. In Russia, where the most daring thieves can actually make a train “disappear” (unlike the magician David Copperfield who can only do it on a set), the government doesn`t have enough time to deal with intellectual property theft. I don`t believe that video-piracy will soon disappear. The Russian Mafia stands behind it because it`s very profitable. People don`t care about copyright. They`d just say: “screw copyright” (nasrat nam na eti avtorskie prava) and buy a cheap illegal cassette at a video-kiosk.

In the same year, I began studying English hard and read Gardner`s THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA. In the West, this novel is considered to be one of his worst, yet I think it`s one of his funniest and most daring. Yes, it`s complicated and somewhat weak, but in this novel, James Bond works in Russia for the KGB! Together with Mossad! And uncovers a conspiracy against Gorbachev. It`s great! I still can`t believe it was published in April 1991, long before the real unsuccessful conspiracy against Gorbachev… which happened in August that year!

In 1995, Russian commercial cinematography began to rise and make movies that could beat Hollywood`s. Of course they weren`t action movies, they were cheap – but good – comedies and dramas.

1996. Two Russian book-companies republished Fleming`s novels. Translations (some bad ones) were the same as in 1990. One of those editions some had blatantly ridiculous facts in Fleming`s brief bio: I`m deeply suspicious that whoever was responsible mixed Ian Fleming and Joan Fleming`s bios! I`m not kidding.

Still, there was no THE DIAMOND SMUGGLERS (which I read in the original edition), THRILLING CITIES or CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, and I`m not sure that they`ll be published in the near future.

TOMORROW NEVER DIES had a greater advertising campaign than GOLDENEYE. In 1997, old-fashioned illegal omnibus video-cassettes (2 movies in 1) almost stopped existing. Why buy them when you could buy a good legal copy in fancy cover? But you could (and still can) buy a cheap illegal video-cassette in fancy-cover. I saw Tomorrow Never Dies long before the official St. Petersburg premiere. It was a kamernaja version.

During `97-98, the first cinema-theaters got Dolby Surround sound systems. Until then, movies had mono sound.

In the same year, a Russian book company published GOLDENEYE. It`s still the only non-Fleming, non-Amis Bond novel published in Russia, however, so far as I know, Benson`s The World Is Not Enough will soon be published here.

In early December of 1999, I saw The World Is Not Enough. It was a kamernaja version again; the official premiere wasn`t until January 6th, 2000. The advertising campaign is even greater. Russian MTV (it began in 1998) constantly shows the GARBAGE single, though not as often by month`s end. The official Russian web-site of The World Is Not Enough started some time ago.

The advertising campaign is great, but not as great as it is in the West. The Russian market doesn`t thoroughly use the BOND cult yet: there are no such things as BOND toys or BOND comics for children, Bondish watches, Bondish cars or other merchandise. Maybe it`s for the better. I think the Bond market has spoiled movie Bond, because, frankly, I think The World Is Not Enough is a disaster and wasn`t worth its mad advertising campaign: BOND shirts, BOND shoes, BOND pens, BOND chips, BOND toilet paper, etc.

So here`s the picture. There are many Bond fans in Russia. Indeed, certain people idolize James Bond. There are several Russian web-sites dedicated to 007. Every keen Bond-fan has probably already seen The World Is Not Enough on the big screen and will buy the legal video-cassette with good translation (Tomorrow Never Dies had excellent translation) as soon as it`s released. However, the Soviet propaganda machine`s damage is done: several generations have been deprived of James Bond. To my parents, the James Bond movies are the lost piece of their childhood and youth they`ve finally found. In Russia, there aren`t any people Raymond Benson or Pierce Brosnan`s age who saw GOLDFINGER as children. A Bond fan in the street can only buy two of the non-Fleming Bond novels in Russian. Though I can read in English, even obtaining the British editions is difficult.

Having said that, I don`t believe it`s the end of the road for James Bond yet. Like it says in the films: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.

The Evolution of the James Bond Films

A position paper as presented by student Mitchel Feffer. [When you have to go…”Take Mr. Bond to school!”–editors]

The Evolution of the James Bond Films
The James Bond films have evolved to mirror the times they were released in, while simultaneously retaining the famous traditional elements of the franchise…

Although all of the James Bond films have fundamentals such as exciting plots, beautiful women, original and interesting villains, exotic places, amazing gadgets and cars and notable gestures, each film has modified these specific essentials to correspond with the time-period that each specific film was released in. In essence, The James Bond films have followed the motto of Tomorrow Never Dies villain, Elliott Carver, who said, “Give the people what they want” (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997). The James Bond films change when they need to but keep the traditional elements audiences want and expect.

In all of the James Bond films, there is a constant struggle between good and evil. James Bond successfully foils the plans of evil villains to save the world countless times in order to keep the world safe. Oddly enough, in almost all of the James Bond films, the movies close with a specific scene in the water (Rubin 448). However, the plots of each of the James Bond films have adapted to reflect the specific political and technological changes throughout the world. In addition, the James Bond films have also incorporated different trends occurring in Hollywood into their films in order to make the James Bond films seem more current.

When the James Bond films began to debut, starting with Dr. No in 1962, the Cold War was an important topic to many people in Europe and America. Therefore, many early James Bond films dealt with the conflict between the Soviet Union and the West, in which Western Europe and the United States were referred to as the West. Therefore, From Russia with Love, the second installment of the James Bond films series, which debuted in 1963, dealt with the mistrust that each side, the Soviet Union and the West, had for each other. Specially, an independent crime agency named SPECTRE, Special Executor for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, tried to steal priceless Soviet technology and blame the theft on the British, thereby causing another World War (From Russia With Love, 1963).

A similar incident occurred in You Only Live Twice, where Japan payed SPECTRE a large amount of money to hijack American spaceships and blame it on the Soviets, in order to incite a war, thereby leaving the two countries powerless and making Japan the new superpower of the World (You Only Live Twice, 1967).

The James Bond films also incorporated specific Cold War events into the movies, not just the tension that was exhibited by both sides. For example, in Thunderball, released in 1965, American cities were threatened by nuclear weapons, similar to the real events during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Thunderball, 1965). The James Bond films also respected the period of Détente in the 1970’s by having James Bond work with a Soviet secret agent in The Spy Who Loved Me (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977). When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990’s, many critics believed that it would be the end of the James Bond films. However, contrary to M’s, James Bond’s superior, beliefs that “[James Bond] is a relic of the Cold War” James Bond returned to the silver screen in 1995 in Goldeneye (Goldeneye 1995).

Specifically, an advertisement for Goldeneye, read, “It’s a New World. With New Enemies and New Threats. But you can still rely on one man. 007” (Black 159). In Goldeneye, James Bond works with a Russian computer programmer to stop a stolen space weapon being fired on London (Goldeneye 1995). In addition, Russian Defense Minister, Dimitri Mishkin, is presented as good and honest person, thus illustrating the new perceptions of the Russians by Europeans and Americans. The cooperation of James Bond and Natalya Simonova, the Russian computer programmer, proved that the Cold War was over and that both sides were willing to work together for a common good.

There were also other political aspects incorporated into the movies that were independent of the Cold War. For example, in 1966 a harmless chemical weapon was released into the New York City subway system; the results concluded that the chemical weapon moved extremely quickly through the City of New York, and the city was not prepared for a chemical weapon attack (Chapman 138). In the next James Bond film, the villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, planned to released chemical weapons throughout the world if his ransom demands were not met (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969).

During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the producers, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, hired an almost exclusive all-black cast to star in Live and Let Die, which debuted in 1973 (Live and Let Die, 1973). In addition, the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun touched upon the oil crisis occurring in the United States when the villain, Scaramanga, tried to steal a solar cell capable of producing enough energy to support the world, and then sell the energy produced by the solar cell at exorbitant prices (The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974). In The Living Daylights, which was released in 1987, James Bond helped the people of Afghanistan repel the Soviets from invading their homeland, the same time that the Soviets were actually leaving Afghanistan (The Living Daylights, 1987). Licence to Kill, which came out in 1989 dealt with the increasing problem of illegal drugs and supremacy of the Drug Lords (Licence to Kill, 1989). Lastly, after Princess Diana died in a car crash while trying to flee the paparazzi, Tomorrow Never Dies was released illustrating the dangers of the media and how far the media will go to obtain a story.

Besides political adaptations of the James Bond films, the James Bond films incorporated new technological advances into the films. Goldfinger, which came out in 1964 displayed the powerfulness of the laser, which was invented two years beforehand (Benson, 177). Moonraker, which came out in 1979, presented the development of the Space Shuttle, which launched soon after the movie was released. In Goldeneye, the Goldeneye space weapon was modeled after the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched in 1990 (Rubin 479).

The James Bond movies also modeled current trends in Hollywood. During The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, James Bond fights a henchman named Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977). The fact that the biggest movie of the era, Jaws, had the same name was no coincidence. In addition, Moonraker featured the space shuttle in an attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars (Moonraker, 1979). Octopussy mirrors an Indiana Jones movie, where James Bond travels around the world to recover stolen jewels and diffuse a bomb (Octopussy, 1983). Lastly, the recent James Bond films such as Licence to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies have taken on the same style of Lethal Weapon and various Stallone, Arnold and Bruce Willis movies, which are all “two hour shooting movies” (Benson, 156).

One of the most essential elements of the James Bond film series is the Bond girls. Although all of the Bond girls are beautiful and aid James Bond in completing his mission with names that may have sexual references, the social status of the Bond girls has changed over time. The Bond girls started with an inferior social status; however, over time the Bond girls have been elevated to an equal if not a superior position to Bond. For example, many of the Bond girls during the sixties had an inferior social status. The first Bond girl, who appeared in Dr. No, was Honey Ryder who was an uneducated shell collector (Dr. No, 1962). Other Bond girls during the sixties were: Jill Masterson, a personal Assistant, Tatiana Romanova, a pawn in a double cross scheme orchestrated by SPECTRE, Domino Derval, a Mistress, and Helga Brandt, a personal assistant (Benson, 156).

During the seventies, the Bond girls changed from an inferior to an equal status as the years increased resulting in greater opportunities. For instance, in the beginning of the seventies prominent Bond girls were: Tiffany Case, a pawn in scheme for World Domination, Solitaire, a fortuneteller, and Andrea Anders, a mistress to Scaramanga (Benson, 156). However, as the decade continued, the Bond girls exhibited a higher intelligence level and a greater amount of training compared to the Bond girls that preceded them. For example, Bond works with Anya Amasova, a top Russian secret agent in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Dr. Holly Goodhead, a CIA Agent in Moonraker (Benson, 156). Since then, most of the Bond girls James Bond has worked with have been equal to him. Significant examples are: Natalya Simonova, a Russian computer programmer, Xenia Onatopp, a former Soviet fighter pilot, and Dr. Christmas Jones, a Nuclear Fusionist (Pfeiffer 171-181). Another noteworthy fact is that Judi Dench takes over as M, James Bond’s superior in Goldeneye, proving women can do any task that a man can do (Pfeiffer 171).

In addition, the character of James Bond has transformed. When the first movie premiered in 1962, James Bond’s first scene is composed of he playing baccarat in a private club, Les Ambassadeurs, and later he discusses the merits of Dom Perignon with his enemy, Dr. No (Dr. No, 1962). It can therefore be concluded that James Bond started as a supporter of upper-class values. For example, during Goldfinger (1964), Bond is attacked from behind when he was walking to the refrigerator to chill his bottle of Dom Perignon (Goldfinger, 1964). In addition, it can sensed that Bond does not make the missions personal, he does what he has to do to fulfill his order, but not for any patriotic reasons. However, as the times changed, so did the character of Bond. Soon after the first couple of movies were released where Bond symbolizes upper-class values, Bond quickly changes to be a major cultural icon representative of “Swinging London.” During On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was released in 1969, Bond stays at an isolated clinic in the Swiss Alps where he has many “one night stands” with many of the patients (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969). In addition, the opening scene in You Only Live Twice (1967), begins with Bond in bed with a woman (You Only Live Twice, 1967). However, the introduction of the 1990’s, changes Bond from a “swinging” and carefree Bond to a more realistic Bond.

Although James Bond still continues to have sex, his relationships are portrayed as more meaningful and long lasting (Goldeneye, 1995). Also, during Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Bond finally denounces smoking and calls it a “filthy habit” (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997). Therefore, Bond is a man of the people. It is also clear that James Bond cares more about his work and loyalty to his allies during this time period. In Licence to Kill (1989), James Bond disobeys all orders, in order to seek revenge and bring Franz Sanchez, a drug lord, to justice after almost killing his American counterpart and long time friend Felix Leiter (Licence to Kill, 1989). In Goldeneye (1995), James Bond is forced to kill his former friend and partner, Alec Trevelyan, 006, after Trevelyan betrays him, the secret service and his country (Goldeneye, 1995). In fact, M orders Bond “not to make it personal [the murder of 006]” even though they both know that he will. In addition, when Bond is about to kill Trevelyan, Trevelyan asks Bond if he is killing for England, however, Bond replies, “No, for me” (Goldeneye, 1995). Additionally, Trevelyan’s quote, “I did think of asking you [Bond] to join my little scheme, but somehow I knew, 007’s loyalty was always to the mission, never to his friend” accurately portrays Bond’s loyalty to his mission and his country (Goldeneye, 1995).

The villains of the James Bond movies have changed as well as James Bond. In the early James Bond films, the villains were not a match for James Bond. The villains were usually wealthy individuals in charge of large corporations, who used their power and high positions to do illegal activities, usually to make money. A prime example is Hugo Drax, the villain in Moonraker (1979), who used his seven-foot tall henchman, Jaws, to fight Bond (Moonraker, 1979). However, once Jaws stopped obeying Drax, James bond was unstopped from destroying Drax and his diabolical mission. Another example is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a villain in multiple films. Blofeld appeared in several films because he would never directly face Bond. Instead, he would run away and live to fight another day (Benson 156). The villains themselves were not physically fit or intellectually superior, but had a circle of men for protection, the only resistance from Bond completing his mission. However, as time went on, the number of action movies competing with the James Bond films increased (Rubin 237). Therefore, it was imperative to make the villains stronger physically and mentally in order to create a realistic challenge for James Bond. For instance, Alec Trevelyan, the villain in Goldeneye (1995), proved to be a worthy opponent for James Bond since he was a former “00” agent (Goldeneye 1995). Renard, the villain in The World is Not Enough had a bullet in his head, making him free of all pain, thus “pushing harder than any normal man” (The World is not Enough, 1999).

Music has been an integral part of the success of the James Bond films series. The films are famous for having popular contemporary record their the title songs. Specifically, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones sung title sang in the sixties, while Paul McCartney performed in the early seventies, Duran Duran and a ha played in the eighties, and U2, Sheryl Crow and Garbage were in the nineties (Benson, 156). In addition, Madonna is scheduled to be singing the title song for the next James Bond film, Die Another Day, opening in November of 2002 (Official MGM Site, www.jamesbond.com).

Although the James Bond theme is blended in all of the James Bond music, the theme has updated itself to reflect the current trends in the music industry. Particularly, after staying basically intact in the sixties, the James Bond theme incorporated a faster tempo to be more reflective of the Disco era during the seventies (Pfeiffer 121). When the James Bond films entered the 1980’s and 1990’s the theme was reconstructed several times with a myriad of synthesizer instruments and noises (Pfeiffer 188).

Although no James Bond film would be complete without gadgets, the role and importance of the gadgets used by James Bond has significantly changed throughout the years. During the first few films, the gadgets played an insignificant part that did not affect the fate of James Bond or the outcome of his mission. However, beginning with You Only Live Twice and the introduction of Little Nellie, a portable helicopter, the role of the gadgets in the films increased forever (You Only Live Twice, 1967). Even though the importance of the gadgets increased, many of the gadgets still lacked practically and realism. For instance, in Diamonds are Forever, Bond uses a moon-buggy to escape from his enemies (Diamonds are Forever, 1971). In Octopussy, Bond again escapes from his enemies, however this time using an Astro-Star jet plane conveniently hidden in the back of a trailer (Octopussy, 1983). However, beginning with Goldeneye, “A Bond for the 90’s”, the role of gadgets changed dramatically (Black 162). In order for the James Bond films to differentiate themselves from mindless action movies of the time, the gadgets in the James Bond became much more realistic. For example, in Goldeneye, Bond uses his belt to act as a zip line to avoid capture (Goldeneye, 1995). Following, in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond uses his cellular phone to break into a secure room, containing highly sensitive material (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997). Although these gadgets may not be as exciting as a moon buggy or mini jet plane, the gadgets convey a greater sense of realism to the character of James Bond and the James Bond films.

Another interesting aspect of the James Bond film franchise is how the marketing and merchandise of the films has changed in order to allow James Bond to compete with other very popular action super heroes. Since the James Bond films were new and unique when they were first released, the early James Bond films were classified as a “James Bond” or “007” flick. For instance, the trailer for Thunderball, the fourth installment in the James Bond films series contained the words “James Bond”, “Sean Connery” and “007” over fifteen times in the first minute (Thunderball, 1965). However, as times progressed the James Bond films were marketed for their plot and action sequences. In contrast, the trailer of Tomorrow Never Dies, which debuted in 1997, emphasized the conflict between England and China (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997). In addition, beginning with the release of Goldeneye in1995, the James Bond films became a medium where large corporations were able to advertise their products at a very high price.

For instance Tomorrow Never Dies was nicknamed “License to sell”, a parody of James Bond’s license to kill (Pfeiffer 188). In that film alone, promotional tie-ins included BMW, Ericsson phones, Bollinger champagne, Omega watches, Brioni clothing, Avis rental cars, Golden Wonder potato crisps and other manufacturers (Pfeiffer 189).
As a concession, there are some people who claim that James Bond has not evolved at all. Instead, these people claim that James Bond is still basically a secret agent from England, who drinks and has sex, while saving the world from disaster. Sadly, these people fail to recognize the complexities of the stories and the characters in each specific story. Therefore, their simple argument is unjustified after an examination of all the works.

The James Bond films have been one of the most successful film franchises in history. However, this success was due to the perfect balance between traditional elements and the ability for the films to adapt and reflect the current time period. If either factor had been neglected totally or in varying amounts, the James Bond film franchise may not be what it is today!

**Bibliography

  • Benson, Raymond The James Bond Bedside Companion New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1984
  • Black, Jeremy The Politics of James Bond London: Praeger Publishers, 2001
  • Chapman, James Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of The James Bond Films New York: Columbia University Press, 2000
  • Diamonds Are Forever. Dir. Guy Hamilton. Perf. Sean Connery, Jill St John, and Charles Gray. United Artists, 1971
  • Die Another Day. 25 March 2002 <http://www.bond20.com>
  • Dr. No. Dir. Terence Young. Perf. Sean Connery, Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman. United Artists, 1962.
  • For Your Eyes Only. Dir. John Glen. Perf. Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet and Julian Glover. United Artists, 1981.
  • From Russia with Love. Dir. Terence Young. Perf. Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi and Robert Shaw. United Artists, 1963.
  • Goldeneye. Dir. Martin Campbell. Perf. Pierce Bronsan, Izabella Scorupco and Sean Bean. MGM/United Artists, 1995.
  • Goldfinger. Dir. Guy Hamilton. Perf. Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and Gert Frobe. United Artists, 1964.
  • Ian Fleming Foundation. 25 March 2002 <http://www.ianfleming.org>
  • Licence to Kill. Dir. John Glen. Perf. Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, and Robert Davi. United Artists, 1989.
  • Live and Let Die, Dir. Guy Hamilton, Perf. Roger Moore, Jane Seymour and Yaphet Kotto. United Artists, 1973.
  • Living Daylights, The. Dir. John Glen. Perf. Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo and Jeroen Krabbe. United Artists, 1987.
  • Man with the Golden Gun, The. Dir. Guy Hamilton. Perf. Roger More, Britt Ekland and Christopher Lee. United Artists, 1974
  • Moonraker. Dir. Lewis Gilbert. Perf. Roger Moore, Lois Chiles and Michael Lonsdale. United Artists, 1977.
  • Pfeiffer, Lee The Essential Bond New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999
  • Octopussy. Dir. John Glen. Perf. Roger Moore, Maud Adams, and Louis Jordan. United Artists, 1983.
  • Official James Bond site. MGM/United Artists <http://www.jamesbond.com>
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Dir. Peter Hunt. Perf. George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, and Telly Savalas. United Artists, 1969.
  • Rubin, Steven J. The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia Chicago: Contemporary Books,1995
  • Spy Who Loved Me, The. Dir. Lewis Gilbert. Perf. Roger Moore, Barbara Bach and Curt Jurgens. United Artists, 1977.
  • Thunderball, Dir. Terence Young, Perf. Sean Connery, Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celi. United Artists, 1965.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies. Dir. Roger Spottiswoode. Perf. Pierce Bronsan, Michelle Yeoh and Jonathan Pryce. MGM/United Artists, 1997.
  • View to a Kill, A. Dir. John Glen. Perf. Roger Moore, Tanya Roberts and Christopher Walken. United Artists, 1985.
  • World is not Enough, The. Dir. Michael Apted. Perf. Pierce Bronsan, Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle. MGM/United Artists, 1999.
  • You Only Live Twice, Dir. Lewis Gilbert. Perf. Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayshi, and Donald Pleasence. United Artists, 1967.

Questions? Comments? Contact budding author Mitchel Feffer.

Wilson Chance: Spoof Film Diary

Jeffrey Bunzendahl, director of the upcoming spy-spoof WILSON CHANCE: THE MOVIE, spoke with 007Forever last fall and detailed what it was like to film an independent movie using friends, low reserves of cash and attending film school. As the release date for WILSON CHANCE approaches, Jeffrey has opened up his filming diary of the most dangerous sequence in his movie. It chronicles the fears and hazards that go into such a complex action scene.

***

I thought I would take some excerpts from my filming dairy during production of a particularly challenging scene. From inception to execution, it took about a month to pull off one complicated scene, which involves skydiving and assorted mayhem.

I was sitting at home in front of my Mac G4. I was working on my script to flesh out a scene I had been avoiding filming due to budgetary apprehension. I stared at a section of my script that read “Skydiving Sequence.” What the heck was I thinking? True, I tried to write this film using what resources we had access to. But a skydiving sequence? Maybe I`ve watched the Bond films too many times and feel I NEED a skydiving sequence to make this any kind of a respectable spy movie. My better judgement screamed back at me. YES- you need a skydiving sequence!

In the script, the villain has knocked our hapless hero Wilson Chance, unconscious and tossed in the back of a prop plane. With full intention of killing our hero with unnecessary flair, the villain plans to toss Chance out of the plane at 30,000 feet. Chance will of course escape, by pure luck, not skill, thus again reinforcing his name Chance (the connotation of pure luck).

I called my brother George in to the living room and we had an impromptu production meeting. George is also my producer. As my producer, he looked at me as if I were nuts when I told him my proposal.

George said, “Jeff, how in the heck are we going to pull that off? You`ve been watching too many Bond films again. Not every spy film has skydiving in it. And what about the older Bond films? They didn`t have any.”

He had a good point. Nevertheless, somewhere adrift in the mire of my subconscious danced images of 007 fearlessly diving from a plane with a raised eyebrow. A direct result of a so-called bankrupt Bond generation weaned on Roger Moore films.

I started with uncertain confidence. George shrugged and walked away into the kitchen. He was probably convinced I had lost my good sense and judgement as a director. I thought he might have been right this time. I got up early the next day and looked in the phone book for local skydiving places. Eureka! I found a skydiving school operating out of a small airport in Calhan, a farming town outside of Colorado Springs. It`s got flat land everywhere, so it will double out for Mexico nicely (which is where this scene is supposed to take place). The only trick now was to wait for a day that the weather was sunny and clear. That would look really lame if Chance parachuted down somewhere in Mexico and he`s stomping around in fresh snow; although Ed Wood would be proud.

That night I left a message with the coordinator of the skydiving school. I very politely asked if we could come out and just film some of the guys parachuting down. Then later, I would maybe match the footage of Chance in a similar outfit for close ups using a “green screen.” I know that would look hokey, but I had to work with what I`ve got, right? WRONG! I could not pretend here. I wanted this scene to look as cool as possible. But how? I resigned myself to the fact that I would figure that out eventually.

I got a call from the owner of the establishment the next morning, a gent by the name of Jay Smith. He said I could come down and film whatever I want and that they do most of their jumping on Saturday and Sunday. Hot Dog! I couldn`t believe it! Most people had been very resistant to let us film anywhere or anything during the course of this production, and the enthusiasm from Mr. Smith was more than welcome.

My mind was working overtime. It was exciting to think that if this scene worked out it would really give the film another boost in its production value. I love it when people see our footage and say, “How the heck did you guys pull that off?” That`s what I was aiming for.

On that weekend, I drug my brother and my friend Mike (who plays one of our villains) out to the Skydiving range in the morning. They said they wanted to tag along. I figured that way I wouldn`t look like I`m lost when I walked in there. When we arrived, we saw a prop plane parked outside of the main hanger. Everyone jumps out of this plane when they skydive. We traveled inside the first hanger and wandered around a bit. A few rowdy but friendly people were repacking their parachutes off to the left of us. We found the office in the front and met Jay, the owner. Jay is the pilot and alternately skydives when he gets a chance. While we talk, he asks me specifically what I would like to shoot for the film. I quickly explained what I had in mind. I was waiting for the big “get lost.” Jay paused for a moment, then told us to follow him and he`d introduce us to Greg, one of the skydivers who uses a helmet camera. So, into the second hanger we went.

Inside about 15 skydivers or so were all repacking their parachutes. We saw Greg across the room. He was an intense looking guy who was cracking jokes and teasing one of the other skydivers about how he landed on his last jump. Jay introduced us to Greg and he gave us all a hearty handshake. I explained to Greg what we wanted to do. It was time to up the ante. I asked about the possibility of having somebody double out for Wilson Chance and somebody film him jumping from the plane. Mike and George look at each other, as if to say, “What is he up to?” Greg instantly became animated with excitement and began to give me some ideas of how we should shoot the scene and what he could do from the air in terms of filming. Then he grabbed Jordan, another skydiver that was quietly packing his chute. Jordan was a young, laid back kinda guy, who volunteered with a mere nod and a shrug. Jordan was almost a tall as Justin and had a similar facial structure and build. Was this fate or what?

Everything was working out better than I even imagined. These guys were great. They thought what we were doing was exciting, and they fully wanted to be involved. The only thing they wanted from me was to pay for their skydiving slots (reserved space on the plane) each time they jumped for me, and then to pay one slot after that. Pretty affordable, considering a stuntman would charge me more per hour than our camera cost to buy.

Fast-forward a month: we`ve been filming other scenes while we wait to shoot the big skydiving sequence. Snow and rain had kept us away up until this point. But the snow had melted off enough, and it was a 50/50 chance of rain that day. We had decided to go for it anyway. I got Justin (Wilson Chance) up very early and we both headed out to the Calhan Airport before anyone got there. Our main goals were to do some shooting from the ground and get shots of Jordan landing as Chance. Greg would be high above catching the action in the air. When Greg and Jordan arrived, I showed them an earlier version of our film trailer.

They both yucked it up and got a feel for the film. I gave Jordan his motivation for acting like Chance. I told him to basically act like a moron as he falls through the sky. Chance should act like he`s a guy doing his first jump, but trying to act cool and play off the fact he doesn`t know what he`s doing.

First jump of the morning, the plane loads up the skydivers and makes its way skyward. Justin and I crossed the street and over through some barbed wired to an open meadow. A local farmer owned the land. But Greg had assured me that they touch down on his property all the time and he had already talked with the farmer about coming on his property. About 15 minutes after Jordan and Greg had went up, Justin spotted the plane getting into position for the jump.

Out came the skydivers. I tried to get a focus with my camera. I looked right into the sun and I`m blinded for a moment. Justin yelled, “Jeff-they`re coming this way! Hurry!” Darn, I thought to myself. All of these years of production classes and I looked right into the sun on the first shot of the day? I shook it off and scanned the sky for Jordan. He was flailing comically as he headed toward us. Greg followed behind but cut away from us so he wouldn`t land in our shot. Jordan swung in our direction and landed effortlessly. It looked cool, but too smooth to look like a “Chance” landing.

I walked over to Jordan as he pulled in his chute. “Anyway you can wipe-out when you land?” I asked. “Uh, sure, if you want me to break all my bones”, Jordan replied. Dumb question, I guess.

On the second jump, Jordan takes a sharp turn as he`s about to touch down, and goes face down into the dirt as he lands. “Beautiful!” I shout. Wait- Jordan could have been hurt. I call out to him as he lies still on the ground. “Jordan! Are you okay?” I yell. “Yeah-I`ll make it” he replies as he crawls to his feet. “Oh in that case, that last landing was great!” I reply. Directors. We`re very heartless when it comes to getting our shots.

Suddenly, a car zoomed up. Out came a man and his wife. They briskly move toward us. Justin is in front of Jordan and me, and they made a b-line for Justin. This guy was the farmer who owned the property. He began to scream at Justin, spit flying everywhere, as he frothed at the mouth. I could only make out that he was shouting about trespassing and his startled cows.

Greg had forgotten to call the farmer the night before and now this guy was out for blood. I jogged up to join the conversation. I had to try to settle this guy down and redirect him but I could see he had no interest in hearing our side of the story. You could tell this hick was the kind of guy who dances in place waiting to start trouble. And now, he had a reason to be justified if he did something to us. The farmer guy then turned toward me, saw that I was holding a camera, and his eyes turned a dark shade of crimson red. He announced he had a shotgun in the back of his car, and he was going to use it on all three of us.

Wow. What a way to liven up a conversation. What`s worse was that his bitchy wife kept repeating everything he said. Almost like redneck reverb. The farmer then took a step forward to intimidate me. I stood my ground and politely smiled. I tried to talk softly and be apologetic.

For some reason when people see a camera, they assume you`re up to no good. I wanted to resolve this whole thing without violence and I did. I said all the things he wanted to here and apologized as many times as he wanted. The farmer hunkered back to his car, satisfied he had become the alpha male of our little confrontation. We promised the guy it was a misunderstanding and we would be off his property in five minutes. In those five minutes, I quickly snuck in some insert shots of Justin taking off the parachute before we headed back.

We caught up with Greg and took a peek at his footage from his helmet cam. The footage looked fantastic. Wilson Chance was airborne! The last jump for the skydivers of the day, Justin talked me in to letting him go ride along in the plane. Justin took the smaller camera with him to get some interior shots and to film Jordan leaping out of the plane from his point of view. They gave Justin an emergency chute, tossed him in the front, and up they went. Justin said he wasn`t prepared for the sudden pressure change during the flight and one of his contacts flew out. Jay, who was piloting, took the plane in a nose-dive for fun. I watched all of this from the ground and turned green. I kept thinking, “Why exactly is the star of my film 15,000 feet in the air, stuck in a nose-dive?”

The director has to be aware of the safety of his actors. This sentiment tended to lapse in and out during the course of this film. I found myself rationalizing that, as long as Justin didn`t get “considerably” maimed during any given stunt, we`d still be able to go on with the film.

When the plane finally landed, I was glad that it was the last shot of the day. Justin admitted he had the urge to jump out and see what it was like to free-fall. I told him to stick to playing Wilson Chance, and stop thinking like him. Justin agreed. The next weekend we came back and finished our interior shots, and did all the dialogue inside the plane while it was grounded. This scene, which may only have about five minutes on screen when edited, took two full ten-hour days to film. It wasn`t easy, and wasn`t necessarily the most fun I`d ever had in my life. In fact, it was downright grueling, and frightening in parts. Why do this, then, you might ask? The answer is simple, really. I love to entertain. And, I love making movies, baby!

I hope this has given everyone an interesting insight to what it takes to shoot a sequence of this magnitude on an independent level. It definitely separates the men from the boys, or the sane from the slightly off.

–Jeffrey Bunzendahl is the Director of WILSON CHANCE, due to be released in 2001. Vic Flick is working on the soundtrack.

Wilson Chance Poster And Teaser Debuts

You`ve got to love that tagline! The Bunzendahl Brothers are hard at work on their spy flick WILSON CHANCE and they chose 007Forever to debut the slick, brand new poster that goes along with it. Does it seem familiar? It should. The distinctive style is from none other than 007-artist Jeff Marshall.

At a “chance” meeting in New Orleans last October at our annual BOND COLLECTORS’ WEEKEND, Jeff Marshall met with the Bunzendahl Brothers, who were there to debut footage from their new film. One thing led to another and soon Jeff was pitching in to help make WILSON CHANCE a hit. See what kinds of cool Bond fans you can meet by attending BOND COLLECTORS’ WEEKEND?

But the good news about WILSON CHANCE doesn`t end there. Also in town that weekend was legendary Bond-guitarist Vic Flick. When he saw the film, he to decided to help the up-and-coming filmmakers out, and he`s provided the score and title song. His unique sound can be heard at the end of the teaser trailer.

Rank Fan Ranks Films

I appreciate Deb’s lead in The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book that one has to decipher from among all the films the ones that are the best films, and the ones that are personal (if iconoclastic) favorites. I made both lists recently and felt a weight fall from my shoulders.

You can disagree with me as you please, but I humbly reserve the right to change both lists around tomorrow.

Best Films (Ranked as A, B and C quality in chronological order of stinking or smoldering screens):

A-list 007s:
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Diamonds Are Forever
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy
The Living Daylights
License To Kill
GoldenEye
Casino Royale (2006)

B Listers:
Dr. No
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Live and Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
Never Say Never Again
A View To A Kill

C Bonds (Still Worth C-Ing, there’s NO bad Bond epic):
Thunderball (There, I said it)
Casino Royale (1967)
You Only Live Twice
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day

Favorites, different from “best”, in order from tops to bottom–for at least the next day or so:
License To Kill
The Living Daylights
Casino Royale (2006)
Diamonds Are Forever
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy
Goldfinger
From Russia With Love
A View To A Kill
GoldenEye
Never Say Never Again
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Live and Let Die
Moonraker
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Dr. No
Tomorrow Never Dies
Die Another Day
The World Is Not Enough
Casino Royale (1967)
You Only Live Twice
Thunderball (There, I said it.)

I have some friends who starred in these movies, so nothing personal is herein implied. I loved them in the movie, just maybe not the movie as much as another Bond flick…

Quantum of Pronunciation

I have been getting emails regarding the pronunciation of “solace”, still…

Looking at a dictionary, Bond 22 can be pronounced as “soul-less” or “saul-less” (and not in a dictionary as “sull-less”. News reporters have been using the latter as the movie title, and to me, it is a little easier to pronounce–the “a” sound similar to that in “quantum.”

Regardless, there’s going to be a quantum of violence from Pierce Brosnan’s ardent fans, who are still die hard that Daniel Craig is not as stylish or sophisticated in the role as EON Bond Version 5.0.

Right, It’s AVTAK

I recently posted rankings of the Bond films and thought I might better defend LTK as #1. Having said that, I recently re-watched Licence To Kill but also watched AVTAK last night.

View played much better than I had remembered on a big screen with the new print on the Ultimate DVD set. The production values are huge, the chateau, Paris, and horse racing scenes and sounds were great, and Tanya Robert’s screams, I discovered, were all contextual. She screamed when left in the elevator shaft before somewhat succumbing to smoke inhalation (seen as she limply carried down the fireman’s ladder, and screams when people are murdered and when she nearly plunges to her death from the Golden Gate bridge.

In short, I really liked AVTAK and that might come to topple LTK—making it easier to defend my choice. 🙂

One Bond To Rule Them All

Just got through all three Peter Jackson/James Bond LOTR extended editions with the kids (again). And don’t I have lots of time on my hands?

I say PJ/James Bond because the New Line trilogy, of course, features Sean Bean of GoldenEye as Boromir, Christopher Lee (Saruman) of The Man With The Golden Gunfame and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli, Treebeard) of The Living Daylights. One can imagine the possibilities of a crossover sequel:

“Now pay attention, Frodo. Here’s an innovation I’m particularly proud of. A mithril suit of armor, which can stand any impact up to a class-four grenade, and behind the shirt, stinger missiles…”

“Ba-rooooooooom. Don’t be hasty, young Master Bond. One thing we ents understand is the destruction of the Earth, root and tree alike, takes a loooooong time.”

“Oh darling, I’m tempted. But spending my immortal life and the power of the Evenstar as one of Aragorn’s passing fancies, just isn’t my scene.”

Many of you fans when choosing a favorite Bond crossover actors’ epic prefer the Star Wars films. There is no greater icon, therefore, beyond Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Saruman and Francisco “Pistols” Scaramanga in one powerful package. Which crossover films do you like best and why?

Do You Expect Matt To Blog?

My name’s Sherman… Matt Sherman, just returned from Stations D and PC (Stations Work Deadlines and PC Data Crash), I am enthusiastic about blogging to kill at the Ultimate James Bond Fan Blog.

Her Majesty has allowed me to release scant details not privy to the Official Secrets Act…

Hobbies: Running annual James Bond fan conventions

Height: 6′ 2″ (see Dalton, Moore)

Sex: Let’s finish the job first, darling…

Eyes: Only

Weight: Why should I?

Faves: Dalton, Connery; Craig if he doesn’t destroy Q.O.S. this November

Movies: Dr. No – Casino Royale ’06… and you know the rest

It’s enough for now, suffice it to say I believe we’re doing wonderful things for fans via this blog. ‘Ta for now.

Timeless/Not Timeless

TIMELESS — “Space Race” Episode 107 — Pictured: (l-r) Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, Caitlin Carver as Maria — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
Most every Bond film has elements inside that date it, although a strong point of the films is their timelessness in general–they’re always enjoyable to watch.

For example, TLD’s reference to the Mujahideen definitely echos in a not-always-positive vein the Afghanistan of today and dates the film squarely in the 80’s. The popular in-joke on a lifesaving cigarette similarly dates YOLT in the 60’s.

Which films to you are the most and least timeless in nature and why?

Craig Leaves A Tip

Daniel Craig this week cut a fingertip during an exciting action scene for the upcoming Quantum of Solace. Without any spoilers, let’s just say Craig and Co. were hanging around during this scene.

Meanwhile, Craig has many injuries to go if he wants to catch up to the Brozza. Pierce Brosnan was injured a record four times as 007, once on each set of his four Bond films. Can you name the four injuries he received, how they occured, and which accidents left him permanently scarred?

Answers: Back hurt filming GoldenEye, Facial scar on Tomorrow Never Dies, knees injured on The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

Update: Craig was hurt in each of his four films to date!

Summer of 1,000 Movies

I have serious reservations about Quantum of Solace at the box office this fall? Why? Because I have serious reservations for theater tickets to spend dollars at the movies all summer!

I’ve been fortunate to see Prince Caspian (better than I expected, I must say), Iron Man, the new Indiana Jones, 21 and other flicks recently. And my wallet is burning a hole for the upcoming or already out:

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (French Bond spoof now in limited release)
Get Smart (Would you believe?)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Hulk
Dark Knight
Speed Racer
Hancock
Wall-E
The Mummy 3
Etc., etc.
My question: Will 007’s moviegoers be too broke for the gas to get to the theater by October/November, let alone the tickets?

What movies are you waiting for, and which flicks do you think could overtake QOS in box office (after each film has had a several month run)? Crystal Skull looks like it still has some good momentum…

EON or Spielberg/Lucas? I know I hope Bond will whip Indy this time round (pun intended).

Interesting DAF – TND Connection

Howard Hughes invented the tricon bit drill head, the fearsome looking three-section rotary drill that in magnified form, spearheaded Elliot Carver’s efforts to core out British ships in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Since Hughes, personal friend of Bond producer Cubby Broccoli, was the inspiration for Diamonds Are Forever’s uber-baron Willard Whyte, we thus have a fascinating link between the two films… and so it goes.

Tanya Roberts Is An Angel

Tanya Roberts of A VIEW TO A KILL kindly wrote the forward to BONDLIST’er Mike Pingel’s THE Q GUIDE TO CHARLIE’S ANGELS. With a title named like that one, how can we resist? I last spoke with Ms. Roberts a few months back and she’s doing fine, thanks very much. The royalties for her recent THAT 70’S SHOW and “COME TO LAS VEGAS” radio ads must be sizable!

Florida Quantum Premiere

We usually get together a group of fans to see the latest Bond opening night. Please write if you would like to join us.

This year, fans have suggested venues in Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa. We see the film, dine together and review the film and visit local collectors to see their 007 memorabilia. See you Nov. 14!

Glorious Gloria Hendry

Gloria Hendry’s new autobio is now available and features her work on Live and Let Die and throughout her music, film and advocacy career. I just received my copy and so far, I have not been disappointed.

I’ve been priviliged to know Gloria as a friend for some years now, and it seems many of her best stories and pals move through her book very winsomely. I’ll post some exclusive excerpts in upcoming days!

Making Love: Gloria Hendry

Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from Gloria, Bond And All, in the section, “Bond Gallery”, entitled Making Love:

“Not long after the completion of my first co-star role as Helen in Black Caesar, I received a phone call from my manager, Lloyd Kolmar, who said, “I need you back in New York to audition for Live and Let Die, the Bond movie.”

I said, “I don’t have a chance in the world. They want large breasted women, not me, and besides that, I’m not tall and I’m not white.” Lloyd said, “They want to see you. Don’t you understand? You have to fly back.” I asked, “Who’s paying?” I had to think about it. This was an expensive audition. After a couple of days of numbers crunching, I called back and gave an exasperated, “Okay! Where’s the audition?”

Lloyd gave me executive producer Harry Saltzman’s New York office address with the time and date. I caught the next flight out, visited my New York apartment and changed clothes. You see, I kept my New York apartment and I gave myself three months for attempting acting work in California. The weather was “Indian Summer” and it was November…

Gloria tells Ultimate James Bond Fan Blog, “I’m excited! My book was recently published after 2 years in preparation with the publisher and a number of prior years to write and find a publisher… thanks for reading!”

QOS Press Tickets Available

Sony Pictures sent me tickets for a press premiere of Quantum of Solace in Jacksonville, Florida. Some Bond pals are attending and I am blessed with some extra tickets. I have attended several early Bond screenings and at times, there are memorabilia giveaways besides a very enthusiastic early movie crowd.

Please respond with your e-mail or call me by 4 PM Thursday, Nov. 13 at 352-372-5094 for more details or to attend.

Bond, Deconstructed

Another Way To Die, the Quantum of Solace theme track, is rather fascinating in its construction. Or is it quite the opposite, actually, a deconstruction, to quote The World Is Not Enough?

The song basically fuses classic elements of all the Bond trax from Goldfinger on up, changing the drawn out “Goooooooooold” or “Thunder-baaaaaaaawl” to a more peppy staccato “oh-oh-oh-oh” and refining all Bond sound down to a bit of drummin’ here, a bit of guitar thrum there. The lyrics are likewise minimal. Pretty intriguing.

Like deconstructed brownie where chocolate, burnt flour and syrup are laid out as separate elements on a diner’s plate as offerings from revisionist (and probably lazy) chefs, AWTD is a deconstructed and yet magically appealing Bond tune. Never thought Keys and White could pull it off…

Note that some of the guitar riffs are right from the Bond theme but with doubled notes–just as Monty Norman doubled his tune from “A House For Mr. Biswas” for his James Bond theme!

Also, the Bond theme is definitely heard long before the end credits and throughout the QOS David Arnold soundtrack, just again riffs here and there–deconstructed.

Your thoughts on the QOS music extravaganza? It’s just, it’s just… another way to die-ie!

Free Falling…

…Without too many spoilers, the famous scene in Quantum of Solace, besides being lifted from early GoldenEye storyboards, is actually highly realistic, as opposed to the CGI-misbegotten stuff of Die Another Day.

A recent American Cinematagrapher issue reveals how a wind tunnel, capable of replicating human terminal velocity and 150 m.p.h. winds was employed, as was extensive physics research. The scene closely resembles what actual humans would do in Bond and Camille’s desperate situation.

Authentic action, expansive, Ken Adam-ish sets and an eye for cinematography help keep QOS from being muddled by Forster’s jagged action close-ups. Over time, Quantum should prove to be a top Bond film. I think it has left that mark already.

Gotta Love That Crazy Mathis

People are still questioning CR’s “Your friend Mathis… is really my friend Mathis.”

Since Mathis is vetted true (via MI-6 torture and interrogation), Le Chiffre said this to Bond, who trusted Vesper wrongly (that’s why watching CR is fun when you know Vesper is Vesper, you can see why doesn’t want to give the money for the buy-in to Bond, she does not want him to win the poker game because she is growing to care for him, etc.) to confirm Bond’s incorrect suspicion that Mathis, not Vesper, mentioned the poker tell.

In the torture room, Le Chiffre’s henchmen fake-abuse Vesper, who screams fake screams of agony, to put further pressure on Bond to give up the account with White’s/Quantum’s owed money.

In point of fact, no one may have told Le Chiffre about the tell, he may have noticed his own tell in his stellar poker career, and set Bond up for the poker loss personally. What Le Chiffre certainly knew is that Vesper had a call from Mathis (or lied to Bond to say she had a call from Mathis–“meet me outside the lobby”).

It is a matter of humor that under stress, Le Chiffre later slips into his old tell and folds a hand.

Mathis is good, but definitely dead, and that’s how it goes. “From what I understand, Section Heads have a short lifespan, at least for Montenegro and Prague…”

Bourne-Again Bond?

Fan Michael Hunt weighs in on QOS from the UK:

Casino Royale succeeded – despite the cheerless Daniel Craig – because it was a first-rate story from the pen of that master storyteller, Ian Fleming. Wisely, the screenwriters chose to adhere to the main thrust of Fleming’s original and thus kept the plot building inexorably towards its climax.

One of the biggest problems with Quantum of Solace, and to a much lesser extent Casino Royale, is entirely of EON’s own making. More than an entire generation of audiences has grown up with the cinematic Bond, as distinct from the Bond of Fleming’s books, and their expectation is precisely what Messrs Broccoli and Saltzman very successfully created – a witty, tough, but above all entertaining, super-spy.

That is precisely what Daniel Craig and screenwriters Haggis, Wade and Purvis fail to create in Quantum of Solace.

If audiences want to experience the gritty, humourless, no frills hard-action of a Jason Bourne film, then they can watch a Jason Bourne film. To their shame, the producers, director and writers of Quantum of Solace have manifestly sought to emulate the Bourne filmic style. To their credit, they have produced an imitation of a Bourne film – but it isn’t a Bond film. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have singularly failed to learn the lesson that Bourne isn’t Bond and Bond isn’t Bourne.

And with Quantum of Solace they fail to deliver what Bond aficionados want.

The gratuitous rape scene is wholly out of place in a film series that regularly attracts family audiences, in spite of its UK 12A rating (children may on watch if accompanied by an adult).

To be fair, Quantum of Solace promises much in its pre-title sequence – assuming, that is, you don’t (as some people) suffer nausea from the frenzied camera movements. Sadly, given the fact that the film lasts 106 minutes, the pre-title sequence is unequivocally the high-octane highlight of the entire film. What follows is a confused story, lacking any coherent direction and end goal, peopled by a host of characters who fail dismally to create feelings of empathy or enmity with the audience.

And, ultimately, Quantum of Solace fails.

Broccoli and Wilson would do well to abide by the old adage: “Cobbler, stick to your last!”

And listen to the public.

Bond Fan Says, “You Must Be Joking”

Richard Epcar never jokes about his work, which includes a recent voiceover for The Joker and helping cast the new Quantum of Solace videogame–which is awesome! Epcar’s pan of QOS follows:

I saw the latest James Bond film last night; ‘Quantum of Solace’ and I have to say I am disappointed. There was action galore and exotic locations but where was Bond? The James Bond I knew was cunning, using his gadgets and his wit to get out of situations. He would charm, beautiful and often dangerous women into his bed. They have taken away Bond’s charm, sense of humor, gadgets, Q and Moneypenny and left us with kind of a British Dirty Harry heartless assassin. But even Dirty Harry is likable, Bond in this film, not so much. Bond has a line in Casino Royale, when he’s talking to Vesper about his ‘armor’, ‘what ever I am, you’ve stripped it from me.’ I have to say that when I saw Casino Royale, I did enjoy it and thought it was a very Bond film. Well it seems the producers have ‘stripped’ Bond of all the things that made him Bond—even though most of those elements were also missing from Casino Royale. I appreciated the fact that they made Bond more dangerous.

I also liked Casino Royale because it’s one of my favorite Bond books and I’m glad they finally made a serious film version of it. Much of that film followed the book: the card game (although it was Baccarat or Chemin-de-fer in the book-not Texas Hold ‘Em) the car chase, the torture scene and the Vesper cocktail – all of this came out of Ian Fleming’s book. But this new film, Quantum of Solace is entirely new and feels like a made up appendage. The plot, if you can find one in this super fast paced, overly edited, blur of a film, revolves around Bond seeking revenge for the death of Vesper, (who killed herself in Casino Royale to save Bond from the criminal organization Quantum, much like Spectre or Smersh in the early films and books). Quantum of Solace stands alone without any of the flair or panache of characters like Blofeld, Dr. No., Goldfinger or any of the previous mega-criminals that Bond’s had to fight in the past.

The film opens with a fast paced (too fast paced I think) car chase – most of it’s a blur and it’s hard to discern the action throughout this sequence. It feels as though they are trying to copy The Bourne Identity, which is disheartening. In the old days, everyone would try to copy Bond. The entire film feels like a MTV video for people with ADD.

There was nothing spectacular about this film, like the torture scene in Casino Royale or that great fight scene in the stair well. No good relationships, though the acting was solid, when there was time for dialogue. I think Daniel Craig makes a good Bond, but we need to see more of Bond’s colors. This Bond is very one dimensional and uninteresting. There was this new thing about Bond being rogue for much of the film where his own organization didn’t know if he was on their side or not. A bit of throw back to License to Kill, but even in that film, that portion of it didn’t last long thankfully.

Marc Forster directed this film. However, if you didn’t see Casino Royale, you won’t understand what was going on in this film. I feel that the world he created was austere and devoid of the fun one derives from previous Bond films. I know the producers love him and want him to make more Bond films. Which I personally feel would be a mistake for the franchise. I understand he passed on this opportunity because he wants to create his own character.

I think he kind of created his own character in this one, but this one bore little resemblance to the James Bond I know and love. I have to say I think Martin Campbell did a much better job with Golden Eye and Casino Royale. And while the writers of Casino Royale, Paul Haggis, Neal Pervis and Robert Wade did a great job on that Casino Royale, they failed miserably with this one.

I think the one thing I missed the most was Bond’s character; that all men want to be him, and all women want to be with him. Where was that Bond?

I understand they are trying to re-boot the series, in much the same way they’ve re-booted the Batman series with Batman Begins and Dark Knight. But Batman is still Batman in those movies, where as Bond here is no longer Bond.

Friends And Two

Am I the only one who noticed how good it is for 007 to have real friends?

I’m half-playing here, but only by half, because a subtext of QOS is friendships and teammates. Witness the dialogue, including (and I’m quoting for memory so bear with me):

M to Bond: Knowing who your friends are is everything…
Camille and Bond: Friend of yours? I don’t have any friends…
Bond to Colonel of Police: You and I have a mutual friend!
Bond to Corinne Venneau: I have one that is similar, it belonged to a friend.

There are several other friend comments, another half-dozen or near so including Mathis also, and everyone works onscreen in two-man friendly teams: Bond and (surprise in the boot) Mr. White flee baddies; M and Tanner, Bond and Felix, Bond and Fields, Bond and Camille, Felix and Beem, Bond and M, Greene and Medrano, etc. Bond is alone onscreen quite rarely, in fact, although he is welcomed as the moving center of the film, whereas in GoldenEye we abandon our hero to spend many minutes in Severnaya.

Still not convinced to “see double” in the 2nd CR half film? Note how the ending camera angles, scenario and body positions at the end of QOS mirror the opening of CR!

Need I mention the pairings of CIA and MI-6, the PM and Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister and M, oil and water (not mixing), oil and diamonds, White and Greene, Greene and Elvis, Quantum and Le Chiffre, two conversations (both subtitled to draw attention) in the taxi, two hotels “booked” by two teachers on sabbatical, etc.? Next a look at the two films partnering each other…

Although the timings like the geologist’s assassin seem coincidental, the implied backstory and intricate plotting provides a real perspective on a Bond investigation.

The film’s sudden action highlights the danger Bond moves through always, and the reveals on plot are supposed to make us feel we are tracking with Bond as he unearths the bad guy’s doings.

Greene admittedly is not the usual father figure who tells “my dear boy” how brilliant his plan is before torturing him; but the way in which Bond extracts the Tierra Project is both heroic (he is rescuing the Bolivian people) and significant (he is seeking vengeance plus fulfilling his job role ala License To Kill).

One of the many attractive subplots or contexts of QOS is in Bond’s work–M accuses Bond of not being dispassionate but he is exactly that-calculating, hard and very deadly to his enemies. Mathis dies in a good, emotional scene; Bond discards his lifeless body as a tool yet Bond remembers poignantly to take a moment to tell the Colonel of Police “We have a mutual friend!” [Mathis] before coldly blowing him away. Excellent!

What is missing on the UJBDB is a positive discussion of the many similarities between QOS and CR despite the change of director, cinematography, costumer, clothier, etc. Certainly QOS ranks with the best movie sequels in continuity and plot, something impossible about any earlier Bond film.

For example, in both films we are not as usual “introduced” to henchman and minor characters, they are simply appearing as threats or tactical obstacles on Bond’s horizon. Although metal teeth from a Russian dentist or a Russian’s limp awarded by 007 is always a nice addition, the henchman are a bit closer to the Fleming dudes in the two Craig movies in that they are simply stone killers and sociopaths/psychopaths.

Valenka’s peril is ignored by Le Chiffre; she tries to poison Bond anyway and stays faithful to Le Chiffre/Quantum. Similarly, Elvis is stood up to protect Greene and Greene coldly ignores his cousin’s death when the kitchen explodes in the Perla de la Dunas hotel. Lovely.