The film that arguably saved Bond
The 1970s were what could be called “interesting times”. For most of the decade, a period of détente with an easing of tensions between East and West prevailed, with a number of treaties signed to improve security, such as SALT I and the Helsinki Accords.
However, a lot of other things were going on in the world. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system followed by the oil embargo that resulted from the 1973 Yom Kippur War resulted in a prolonged period of “stagflation” in the global economy – low growth coupled with high inflation. A botched burglary in a Washington office block brought down a President and led to a long period of distrust in politics that has never really ended. A slew of conflicts in the developing world was coupled with a great deal of brutality, the worst of which was the genocide perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, ultimately ended by a Vietnamese invasion – followed by Idi Amin in Uganda.
For those living in “The West”, one of the biggest political concerns, along with the economy, racial tensions and drug abuse, was terrorism. Be it the Weather Underground in the US, the IRA in the UK, the Red Army Faction (aka Baader-Meinhof) in West Germany, ETA in Spain, the Red Brigades and their fascist opponents in Italy or the Palestinian groups in a number of places, there were a number of active groups engaging in hijackings, kidnappings, shootings and bombings, resulting in counter-measures that at times violated human rights.
It was “interesting” for James Bond as well. There were no new novels produced bar a couple of tie-in film novelizations, but the decade saw five films of mixed quality, with two changes of lead actor, as well as a fundamental change at the top…
After a bunch of attempts to kill him, along with the hijacking of four airliners by the PFLP, three of which landed in Jordan (where upon the hijackers emptied the planes and then blew up them in front of TV cameras to make a dramatic point), King Hussein of Jordan implemented martial law in September and attacked the Palestinian Liberation Organisation forces in his country. The Syrians came in to defend the PLO, but were beaten back by Jordan’s air force. The PLO were routed, mostly ending up in Lebanon, while in Syria, the whole debacle led to Hafez al-Assad seizing power.
George Lazenby decided to quit as James Bond after one film. If he hadn’t, then a slew of negative publicity (most notably a public row between him and Diana Rigg over alleged garlic-eating before a love scene) might well have forced him out.
EON hired John Gavin, an American actor of some note, but the studio had other ideas in light of the OHMSS box office disappointment. They were told to get Connery back and that money was no object. Connery was duly hired for a then world record salary of $1.25 million dollars, 12.5% of the gross and $145,000 for every week’s filming over 18 weeks, giving the lot to an educational trust he set up. Gavin got his full fee on Cubby’s insistence.
In Uganda, Idi Amin seized power. Presenting a comedic image internationally, in reality he was an unhinged mass murderer, killing hundreds of thousands and expelling Uganda’s South Asian population. In the US, Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was US “public enemy number one”.
A very loose adaptation of Fleming’s fourth novel hit cinema screens.
Diamonds Are Forever (film)
“Curious... how everyone who touches those diamonds seems to die” – Mr Wint, after killing someone
James Bond is sent to investigate a smuggling ring and discovers a plan by Blofeld to hold the world to ransom with a laser satellite.
· With the recent decision by the BBFC to reclassify this film from a PG to a 12 due to some homophobic content (mostly around henchmen Wint and Kidd, who are clearly gay) and a scene involving a near-strangulation by bikini top, this is the earliest movie in the series with a British rating higher than a PG.
· Shirley Bassey does her second title song for this one. One of the better known ones, it has been extensively covered over the years.
· Blofeld, making his last confirmed appearance in an EON movie, is again recast and played by Charles Gray, who had previously played one of Bond’s allies in You Only Live Twice.
· Jill St. John becomes the first American Bond girl, Tiffany Case. This is also the first movie where Bond only has one confirmed liaison.
· Willard Whyte, a reclusive billionaire who Blofeld impersonates, is strongly based on Howard Hughes. The kidnap plot was based on a dream that Broccoli (who knew Hughes) had. Hughes provided extensive support, allowing EON to film in his casinos.
· The bulk of this film is set in the United States, mostly in Las Vegas.
· There are a number of car chases in this film, with director Guy Hamilton taking delight in trashing big American cars. In one of these scenes, a car with Bond and Tiffany in clearly exits an alley on the opposite side to which it entered. This goof was spotted before release and a brief interior shot of Bond ‘flipping’ the car was inserted to try to cover the gap.
DAF… it’s a bit of a mess really. A silly plot, a poor ending and some bad characterisation (Gray’s Blofeld and Case stand out) make this one of the worst of the franchise – many feel this is far too camp. It also is pretty cheap – Connery’s fee eating up much of the budget.
Gross was way up ($116m) on OHMSS and there was an Oscar nomination for the sound though.
Five men from the “Committee to Re-elect the President” (CREEP) are caught attempting to burgle the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Building in Washington DC, starting what will become the Watergate scandal. This didn’t hurt Richard Nixon at this point, who capped off a year where he visited China and signed a number of arms control agreements with the USSR, most notably SALT I, with a landslide (but low turnout) election victory against Democrat George McGovern.
Further terrorism rocked the world, with the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer during the Munich Olympics and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland leading to the imposition of direct rule by London.
Connery had made it clear he was only doing one more film and so EON needed a new Bond. An attempt to find someone from the British armed forces got shut down by Equity, the British actors’ union. The shortlist included Jeremy Brett (later to become famous for his TV portrayals of Sherlock Holmes) and Michael Billington, who had seven screen tests. Roger Moore was the choice, but it looked like he’d be unavailable as he was contracted to the ITC series The Persuaders!, but that show flopped in the US and only lasted one season before being axed.
Roger Moore was free to Bond.
Roger Moore – the “Comedy” Bond
A lot of Bond fans don’t like this portrayal of Bond, finding it too camp and comedic, with the safari suits, the frequent raised eyebrow and the general debonair tone of these films Personally, I feel that Roger Moore isn’t too bad, he just has a mixed batch of films, some of which are very good indeed.
Sir Roger Moore (1927-present), born in London, became an actor at the age of 17 (later transferring to the entertainment branch during his national service) and spent a while as a male model, notably modelling knitwear. After a bunch of poor films, he achieved prominence in the titular role of the TV series Ivanhoe (1958-9) then international stardom for his portrayal of Leslie Charteris’ thief and amateur detective Simon Templar in ITC’s The Saint (1962-9). The latter basically got him the job as Bond, becoming the oldest guy to play the role and the first Englishman to do so.
Roger Moore would appear in a total of seven Bond films from 1973 to 1985. He deliberately chose to play it different from Connery, focussing on humour and lightness of tone, throwing the one-liners off in a relaxed manner. During this time, he appeared in 13 other films, most notably The Cannonball Run, a 1981 film where he plays a Bond-obsessed character who identifies himself as Roger Moore and three films that were highly controversial by dint of being filmed in apartheid South Africa.
Post-Bond, Sir Roger has become a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, but hasn’t really done anything hugely noticeable in the film world. Interestingly enough, he did turn up in an episode of Alias (of which more later).
The Paris Peace Accords ended the US involvement in the Vietnam War. As a result of Munich, West Germany creates counter-terrorist group GSG-9 and Israel launches Operation Wrath of God, a wave of targeted assassinations against those responsible.
However, everything paled compared with the Yom Kippur War. Israel’s Arab neighbours launched an invasion timed to coincide with the holiest day in Judaism and Israel came close to authorising nuclear release before US supplies turned things around, with Israel winning and retaining all the territory it had gained in 1967. Angry at US involvement, OPEC implemented an oil embargo against the US and the Netherlands, causing an energy crisis as world oil prices quadrupled, combined with compounding a stock market crash that would shape the rest of the decade.
A literary Bond imitator (especially in the women department, although he did eventually marry), Clive Cussler’s marine archaeologist Dirk Pitt, arrived on the scene in his first published novel, The Mediterranean Caper.
Saltzman and Broccoli were starting to drift apart here. This next film was mostly handled by the former.
Live And Let Die (film)
“Get me a make on a white pimp-mobile” – Felix Leiter
James Bond is sent to stop an evil Caribbean dictator from flooding the US with cheap heroin and cornering the market in narcotics.
· Bond doesn’t feature in the PTS at all, which features the murder of three Secret Service agents in the space of a few hours.
· Paul McCartney and his band Wings (the Beatles having broken up by this point) sing the title song, which is one of the best known of the series.
· Dr. Kananga, the lead villain, is named after the owner of the crocodile farm that features here, Ross Kananga – who also did the croc stepping stunt.
· This is an unusual film in that Bond does not drink a martini, wear a tuxedo or meet Q – he also smokes cigars instead of cigarettes. It’s also the first not scored by John Barry.
· This one definitely owes a lot to the then popular “Blaxploitation” films, films with primarily black casts, plenty of funk music and afros galore, with influences going through to modern day hip-hop. LALD features the first black Bond girl (although she does turn out to be a baddie), as well as scenes in Harlem and New Orleans.
· The speedboat chase resulted in the destruction of 17 of the 26 boats provided.
· When this premiered on UK television in 1980, it got 23.5 million viewers, a record for a film that is still unbeaten.
This one’s not to everyone’s tastes (In 2006, IGN ranked it 12 out of the then 20 EON films) – personally, there are far better ones out there. The less said about Sheriff JW Pepper the better. Box office was great, with the film earning $847m in 2012 dollars and reviews were good, which was the key thing for EON.
After the discovery that his personal assistant was working for the “Stasi”, East German intelligence, West German Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt, whose Ostpolitik had opened relations with East Germany (in the face of strong opposition from the Christian Democrats) was forced from office.
John le Carré published his best known novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The first of the “Karla Trilogy”, it has received both TV and film adaptation – the first one with Alec Guinness in the role is considered his defining role that isn’t Obi Wan Kenobi.
Eighteen months after Live And Let Die, Broccoli’s film hit the cinemas – aiming to cash in on the apparent success of the previous film as soon as they could.
The Man With The Golden Gun (film)
“I like a girl in a bikini. No concealed weapons” – Scaramanga
While on the search for a missing solar energy expert, Bond is sent a golden bullet by Francisco Scaramanga, an assassin who charges a million dollars a kill and uses a specially made golden gun. Bond must find Scaramanga – but no-one knows what he looks like.
· Bond again does not feature in the PTS – bar a waxwork of him at the end.
· A good part of this film was a response to the popularity of Kung Fu, such as Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon. Lee had been planning to work on a film with George Lazenby but his premature death prevented that.
· Sir Christopher Lee, whose long career of on-screen villainy has seen him play Dracula a good deal and also appear in the Star Wars series, shines as Scaramanga. He’s the best thing in the film – and one of the best ever Bond villains. Second best thing in the film is Herve Villechaize’s Nick Nack.
· Location filming in Thailand (Iran, then a pro-Western monarchy, was deemed a no-no when the Yom Kippur war broke out) saw the crew put up in what they later learnt was a brothel and put the area of Phuket very much on the tourist map – as well as Scaramanga’s island, Khow-Ping-Khan, which is popularly called “James Bond Island”.
· Britt Ekland provides a highly ineffectual performance as Mary Goodnight. You don’t get Bond girls like her today. Maud Adams does a far better job – and she’s killed off!
· This was the first Bond film seen in the Kremlin.
· This film contains a 360 degree car jump that was the first stunt created with the aid of computer modelling – and then John Barry decided to put a comedy slide whistle effect in (which he later regretted doing).
Many Bond fans deem this one of the worst movies of the series – and I agree. JW Pepper is obnoxious and offensive, there’s too much silliness and the plot isn’t all that good. Box office was disappointing (only 11 million US tickets were sold, a new low for the series), well down on the previous film. It was time to change things, lest the whole franchise be in danger.
In Vienna, six terrorists led by Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, attacked the OPEC meeting and took 66 people hostage, with three people killed. The Austrian government agreed to their demands to play a pro-Palestinian communique and provide them with a plane. The hostages were released in Algiers and Tripoli, where some of the terrorists were granted asylum by Gaddafi.
Harry Saltzman, who had been engaged in business ventures outside of Bond, made a bad investment. Unfortunately for EON, he had taken out a loan for the investment using his Bond shares as collateral… Faced with their shares ending up in other hands, a deal was eventually reached – UA bought Saltzman’s 50% stake and thus ended his involvement with the franchise.
Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France passenger flight from Tel Aviv to Paris and flew it to Entebbe, Uganda. They release all the non-Jewish or Israeli passengers, but the flight crew refused to go, so 106 people were held hostage in the old terminal of the airport – a terminal built by an Israeli company, who retained the plans. Armed with this information and intelligence from the released hostages, with negotiations not succeeding, Israel launched a daring commando raid to rescue them. The terrorists and the Ugandan soldiers were taken completely by surprise. 27 of them were killed and a quarter of Uganda’s air force destroyed on the ground, for the loss of one Israeli soldier, force commander Yonatan Netanyahu (brother of current Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), and three of the hostages. A fourth hostage, 75-year-old Dora Bloch, had been taken to hospital before the raid and was murdered shortly afterwards.
The ten-year prohibition on Ken McClory making a Bond film ended. He was now in a position to remake Thunderball – if he could find the money… This change also precluded the use of SPECTRE in the next film, as McClory threatened to sue.
A hijacking of a Lufthansa jet that has been taken to Mogadishu, Somalia was ended by GSG 9, the West German counter-terrorist unit formed after Munich. Three of the four hijackers were killed and all the hostages rescued. Following this, three senior Red Army Faction members including Andreas Baader, jailed earlier that year, are found dead in the cells (the official verdict was suicide) with a fourth surviving her injuries, following which a kidnapped German businessman, Hanns-Martin Schleyer was killed and his body dumped. West Germany announces it will never negotiate again with terrorists. This effectively ends the “first generation” of Baader-Meinhof, a group suspected at the time to be supported by East Germany – something confirmed by the Stasi archives.
The next Bond film, the tenth, was released on 7 July 1977 (7/7/77) and also had a tie-in novelisation, as did the next film. If this was a failure, then the whole franchise would be in serious danger. The budget was doubled above the previous ones for the most spectacular Bond film yet.
The Spy Who Loved Me (film)
“Well, well... a British agent in love with a Russian agent. Détente, indeed” – Stromberg
When British and Soviet nuclear missile submarines go missing, James Bond is teamed up with beautiful Moscow Centre operative Major Anya Amasova to find them… but Bond has just killed her lover.
· To an extent, this is a re-do of You Only Live Twice, with Lewis Gilbert in the director’s chair for both films.
· The pre-titles sequence featuring a ski chase that is concluded by Bond skiing off a mountain, opening a Union Jack parachute, is considered a classic of the series. Audiences applauded the stunt, for which Ron Sylvester got $30,000 (you can see a ski hit his chute – it could have gone fatally wrong).
· This is the first Bond film where the title song is not called the same thing as the film – although the title is mentioned in the lyrics.
· Barbara Bach brings an atrocious Russian accent to the party as Amasova, but a lot of people aren’t frankly caring about the accent.
· Steel-teethed henchman Jaws makes his first appearance, as does General Anatoly Gogol, head of the KGB.
· Unable to find a studio at Pinewood big enough for the super tanker interior scenes, EON built the largest production stage in the world and built a huge water tank as part of it. What is now in its third version (after two fires) the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage is a staple of the British film industry, although it has lost the ‘largest’ title to Studio 15 at Babelsburg Studios in Potsdam, Germany.
· Bond gets plenty of gadgets here, but top prize must go to the Lotus Espirit that turns into a submarine.
This is one of the biggest – and one of the best. Great stunts, great locations – and Moore is taking it seriously. The box office was superb and Bond was safe.
Earlier this year, Star Wars had been released. While the closing credits said “James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only”, the huge success of Lucas’ sci-fi film led to a big change of plans.
The Shah of Iran was overthrown and an Islamist government put in place. Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady”, was elected as British Prime Minister. At the end of the year, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up communist rule against an insurgency – overthrowing the government there. The resulting diplomatic fallout ended the ailing détente and heated up the Cold War considerably as that benighted country again became a battleground for other nations.
Broccoli decided to take Bond where he had never been before – Low Earth Orbit. With Moonraker’s original plot twenty-five years out of date, a new space age plot was created.
“Mr Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you” – Hugo Drax
James Bond goes up against billionaire industrialist Hugo Drax, who is out to destroy all human life on Earth and repopulate it with genetically ‘perfect’ people, who are living in his space station
· The PTS sees Bond end up having a mid-air parachute flight with Jaws, who returns in this one – the only henchman to appear in two movies.
· Shirley Bassey does her third and final Bond song.
· Hugo Drax is played by Michael Lonsdale (1931-present), an actual bi-lingual in French and English, which gets him a lot of gigs.
· The budget for the film was $34m, the most expensive Bond film yet.
· This film set records for most sugar-glass broken in one scene and most actors on wires for the zero-G scenes.
· This features not only one, but two boat chases, as well as filming in Rio – Broccoli liked some waterfalls there.
· There’s a homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg had approached to do a Bond and wasn’t able to), in the form of a door-lock tune.
Moonraker is entertaining, but arguably very, very far-fetched. James Bond is not Han Solo, frankly. There are plenty of better films in the franchise and this isn’t the best of the Moores.
The box office was superb – it wouldn’t be beaten until GoldenEye on raw numbers and inflation adjusted until Casino Royale. However, middling reviews EON decided they were going to bring Bond back down to Earth and avoid this sort of thing in future.
The 1970s had been, overall, a very successful decade for James Bond 007. Five films had been mostly successful and with nearly all his imitators falling by the wayside, the British secret agent was still standing.
The 1980s were going to bring new challenges. From McClory, from Hollywood and something called AIDS. By the end of it, Bond’s very existence was going to be questioned.
Although mostly not suicide bombings, with groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) being more Marxist in nature and adopting the ‘plant bomb, then run away’ approach to attacks.
The casinos in question, such as the Landmark, have since been closed and demolished. The Vegas Strip has altered a lot of the years – in 2011, the long-running Sahara shut down, but is due to reopen under a new name and owner.
James Bond has received a total of 7 nominations, all for music or technical stuff, the last in 1981. It won two of them, Goldfinger and Thunderball getting them for Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects respectively. The Academy, on the whole, doesn’t go for blockbusters, but Broccoli did get a lifetime achievement award in 1982.
Headed by Lew (later Sir Lew and then Lord) Grade, the Incorporated Television Company was a British production and distribution company, running from 1958 to 1998. It produced many cult British shows for the “ITV” networks (being a subsidiary of Midlands franchise holder ATV), including Thunderbirds, Danger Man and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), these shows tending to focus on action and adventure along with a fair bit of espionage, with exotic locations and high production values.
ITC’s production days came to an end following two first-order cinematic flops in quick succession in 1980 – Can’t Stop the Music (which won the first Razzies for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay) and Raise the Titanic!, a panned adaptation of a rather good Clive Cussler novel.
As discussed elsewhere, the British media community were strong opponents of this regime and Equity banned the sale of any products featuring its members to the country when it got television.
A 2005 film about the latter starred a pre-Bond Daniel Craig.
This was not the first written in this prolific with spin-offs series, a good number of which I’ve read over the years. That was Pacific Vortex!, published in 1983 and the first chronologically in the series’ narrative.
Carlos actually features as a (far more effective than he really was, although he was quite effective) character in Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels – where he’s killed off! In reality, he was arrested in Sudan in 1994 (they’d gotten tired of him), shipped to France and prosecuted in 1997 for three murders in France. He is now serving a life sentence.
Ulrike Meinhof had been found hanged in her cell the previous year.