The Real Origins of Screenplay #11? by Alan Stephenson
An unctuous, wealthy megalomaniac with an interest in rare orchids surrounds himself with a coterie of beautiful women. In breaching the madman’s underground Brazilian lair during Carnival, a notorious international secret agent—accompanied by a female operative who initially mistrusts him—uncovers a scheme to decimate mankind from earth orbit, then repopulate the world with a new master race.
Despite a lavish budget, the film is something of an embarrassment to genre devotees. The title is, of course, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die. What?! Produced by famed Italian mogul Dino De Laurentiis in 1967, the film stars Michael “Touch” Connors—later to become simply Mike Connors of TV’s Mannix—Dorothy Provine (who, in sharp contrast with Bondian tradition, never succumbs to the hero’s charms, but—more conventionally—plans to marry him), and Terry-Thomas with music by John Sebastian of Welcome Back Kotter fame.
The similarities to 1979’s Moonraker don’t end with the plot synopsis: Specific scenes—even particular sight gags—are duplicated in the EON film. In fairness, Kiss … appears to borrow liberally from early EON releases as well. Following is a comparison of elements appearing in both Kiss … [KGMTD] and Moonraker and other Bond titles.
KGMTD: Villain plots to release radiation from orbiting satellite to sterilize human race; lower animals unaffected.
Moonraker: Villain plots to release chemical from orbiting satellite to kill human race; lower animals unaffected.
KGMTD: Male CIA agent investigates villain whose operation has already been infiltrated by female MI6 agent.
Moonraker: Male MI6 agent investigates villain whose operation has already been infiltrated by female CIA agent.
KGMTD: Amazon’s Iguacu Falls appear in the opening titles.
Moonraker: Amazon’s Iguacu Falls appear in the chase sequence.
KGMTD: Sets influenced by Ken Adam.
Moonraker: Sets designed by Ken Adam.
KGMTD: Adam influence includes villain’s headquarters, concealed underground in the Brazilian jungle.
Moonraker: Adam designs include villain’s headquarters, concealed underground in the Brazilian jungle.
KGMTD: Many sequences take place during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Moonraker: Some sequences take place during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
KGMTD: Hero contacts counterpart at tramway station where assassination attempt is made.
Moonraker: Hero contacts counterpart at tramway station where assassination attempt is made.
KGMTD: Villain keeps representative orchid in acrylic block.
Moonraker: Villain keeps representative orchid in acrylic sphere.
KGMTD: Hero’s shoes fire darts.
Moonraker: Hero’s wristband fires darts.
KGMTD: Heroine’s cigarette fires darts.
Moonraker: Heroine’s diary fires darts.
KGMTD: Heroine’s ring injects poison via retractable needle.
Moonraker: Heroine’s pen injects poison via retractable needle.
KGMTD: Heroine’s eyebrow pencil sprays knockout gas.
Moonraker: Heroine’s perfume atomizer is a flamethrower.
KGMTD: In escaping henchmen on winding road above Rio, heroine’s car becomes billboard featuring satiric message [Bullova watches].
Moonraker: In escaping henchmen on winding road above Rio, hero forces one of same into billboard featuring satiric message [British Airways].
KGMTD: Villain traps heroine inside rocket warhead.
Moonraker: Villain traps heroine inside rocket exhaust port.
KGMTD: Villain’s headquarters eventually overrun by government troops.
Moonraker: Villain’s headquarters eventually overrun by government troops.
KGMTD: Rocket carrying satellite looks like giant silver bullet inside giant silver gun barrel. Silo is perfectly smooth save for gantry arms and encircling pierced metal platform-fed by flush-mount doors-situated above guidance planes.
Moonraker [Novel]: “It was like being inside the polished barrel of a huge gun. Up through the centre of the shaft, which was about thirty feet wide, soared a pencil of glistening chromium … The shimmering projectile rested on a blunt cone of latticed steel which rose from the floor between the tips of three severely back-swept delta fins … otherwise nothing marred the silken sheen of fifty feet of polished chrome steel except the spidery fingers of two light gantries …”
And For Good [Bad?] Measure…
KGMTD: Lesser female character drives new Ford Mustang convertible, in marked contrast to otherwise nondescript domestic vehicles.
Goldfinger: Lesser female character drives new Ford Mustang convertible, in marked contrast to otherwise nondescript domestic vehicles.
KGMTD: In startling double-cross, villain kills his own investors.
Goldfinger: In startling double-cross, villain kills his own investors.
KGMTD: In shower of sparks, henchman electrocuted by electrified bars.
Goldfinger: In shower of sparks, henchman electrocuted by electrified bars.
KGMTD: Trapped by automated door triggered by villain, henchman ultimately falls spectacularly to his death.
Goldfinger: Trapped by automated door triggered by villain, henchman ultimately falls spectacularly to his death.
KGMTD: Villain’s principle mode of transportation: luxury yacht.
Thunderball: Villain’s principle mode of transportation: luxury yacht.
KGMTD: While seated in bleachers observing festive parade, hero questions heroine who is also villain’s companion.
Thunderball: While seated in bleachers observing festive parade, hero questions heroine who is also villain’s companion.
KGMTD: Villain feeds enemies to pirhana fish.
You Only Live Twice: Villain feeds enemies to pirhana fish.*
KGMTD: Rocketry obtained from Red Chinese.
You Only Live Twice: Rocketry provided by Red Chinese.*
KGMTD: Heroine’s name is Fleming.
James Bond Novels: Author’s name is Fleming.*
Moonraker ultimately launches 007 into orbit while Kiss … keeps its hero, “Agent Kelly,” earthbound. As a result, the earlier film is—in certain respects—the more “believable” of the two; Kiss … has no “city in space,” for example—a frequently criticized element of Moonraker—and thus perhaps doesn’t stretch audience credulity nearly so far (though there’s still plenty else on display in Kiss … to leave you wincing).
I’m not suggesting that Moonraker’s screenwriter, Christopher Wood, baldly stole from Kiss …, at least not consciously (even David Gerrold—scribe of the famed Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles”—admits he may well have stored “Flat Cats” in his subconscious, but otherwise failed to recall the pre-Trek tale), but almost none of Moonraker’s on-screen elements appear in Fleming’s novel and they must have been born of something; the films’ similarities seem too numerous to accept that they randomly occurred to two screen writers working in the same genre a decade apart.
Did Wood forget viewing Kiss … or was he hoping no one remebered an obscure Italian knockoff? Might EON even have purchased the rights in the meanwhile to avoid a messy plagiarism charge? (Potential fodder for Comedy Central’s MST3K if nothing else, Kiss. .. is seldom seen today outside bootleg videos.) Or are the similarities indeed just an unfortunate—albeit mighty suspect—coincidence?
The occasional champion aside, Moonraker is more often derided by serious fans as a misguided, overly humorous attempt to cash-in on the Star Wars craze. But almost more intriguing than its place in the history of the franchise are its possible true origins. Could one of the most (justifiably?) maligned Bond films really have appeared on-screen years before? This time, it may be a mystery even 007 couldn’t unravel …
*Since KGMTD and YOLT were effectively simultaneous, similar elements may indeed be genuinely coincidental. Regardless, it’s virtually impossible to determine who was borrowing from whom.
–Alan Stephenson (Santa Cruz, CA) is one of the world’s leading collectors of James Bond memorabilia.