Tag Archives: Roger Moore

Rocks In The Attic #368: John Barry – ‘Thunderball (O.S.T.)’ (1965)

RITA#368We watched Thunderball a few weeks ago. It really is a mess of a film, oddly paced and the first real mis-step of the series. It’s only a dash over two hours long, but it feels like a three-hour epic. I have trouble enjoying it, and usually start wishing I’d put You Only Live Twice on instead.

There’s an unintentionally funny scene in Thunderball where Bond dances with Domino in a hotel resort. The band next to the dancefloor look frozen in time, while couples glide around. The audible music is John Barry’s score – an instrumental version of Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – but nothing matches! The band are supposed to be miming to it, but they’re just standing there, not moving; and Bond, Domino and the surrounding couples are all dancing at the wrong speed to the music. This scene itself is a microcosm of how messy the rest of the film is.

The story behind Ian Fleming’s 1961 novel of the same name is just as muddled as the resulting film turned out to be. Decamping from England to the Bahamas to take advantage of tax breaks, he started working on a screenplay with Kevin McLory, Jack Wittingham, Ivar Bryce and Ernie Cuneo. In the prior novels, the enemy was SMERSH (a shortened version of Smert Shpionam – Russian for ‘Death to Spies’ – and eventually referred to in the film of The Living Daylights), but suspecting that the Cold War would end before the screenplay was filmed, Fleming changed the enemy to SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).

The screenplay went unfilmed, but Fleming recycled much of the story for the novel – the ninth in the series. Kevin McLory saw an advance copy and claimed it was based on their collaborative work for the original screenplay idea. Sued for breach of copyright, Fleming suffered a heart attack at the age of fifty three.

By the time the film appeared in 1965, Thunderball was the best selling of the Bond novels and McLory had been awarded the film rights as a result of his lawsuit against Fleming. To be able to shoot the film (and subsequently use the characters of SPECTRE and Blofeld in later films), EON Productions made McLory a co-producer on the proviso that he wouldn’t make his own version of the film for at least ten years. Never Say Never Again – a remake of Thunderball, starring an aging Sean Connery – hit cinemas in 1983, just four months after Roger Moore’s penultimate Bond film, Octopussy.

It’s hard to say which is the better film – Thunderball or Never Say Never Again. Thunderball has the effortless cool of the mid-‘60s in its favour, while Never Say Never Again feels a little more modern. While the films in the official run of films at that time – especially Octopussy – felt a little stuffy, Never Say Never Again has a bit of a harder edge. The later film still feels a little weighty, being of a similar running time and essentially telling the same story, but the action scenes pick up the pace better than in Thunderball. In particular, the motorcycle chase through Nice is as good as any of the stunts in the Moore films of the early ‘80s.

Claudine Auger plays Domino in Thunderball, and Kim Basinger plays the same role in Never Say Never Again, so at the end of the day it all boils down to what you prefer: blondes or brunettes.

Hit: Thunderball (Main Title)

Hidden Gem: Switching The Body

Rocks In The Attic #354: John Barry – ‘You Only Live Twice (O.S.T.)’ (1967)

RITA#354I recently heard the news that the next Bond film – #24 in the official series – is to be titled SPECTRE.  I couldn’t be happier about this. Skyfall was such a crushing disappointment for me – I could write a blog post on just that alone – but suffice to say, there were several moments in the cinema that I covered my eyes, groaned aloud and tried to hide behind my wife’s shoulder. I haven’t seen the film since and I don’t have any plans to. It broke what could have been an untouchable run for the Daniel Craig years.

Titling the next film SPECTRE is a truly wonderful thing for a Bond fan to hear. Due to copyright issues, the name of the crime organisation has been off-bounds in the official films since Diamonds Are Forever. They turn up in 1983’s unofficial Never Say Never Again, but they don’t appear in any of the official films in Roger Moore’s, Timothy Dalton’s or Pierce Brosnan’s tenure.

SPECTRE is therefore a sole hallmark of the Connery films. The legal issues have now been resolved and the crime syndicate will be making a reappearance in the 21st century. This is a great fit with the Daniel Craig films returning to the gritty feel of the early Bonds. Other news like the casting of Cristoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci just make it sound even better. Monica Bellucci as a Bond girl? Not since Lana Wood’s role as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever have we seen a Bond Girl with – ahem – assets of that size.

You Only Live Twice really scared me growing up. Watching Bond “die” in the opening sequence was really confusing to a five year old. That sort of misdirection just doesn’t make sense to somebody that young. I guess it would be the same for kids these days seeing Bond “die” in the opening sequence of Skyfall.

You Only Live Twice is the last truly serious Connery Bond film. By the time he reappeared in the role four years later, the films had started down the slippery slope of high camp. Diamonds Are Forever has a great opening sequence – where Connery’s Bond is out for revenge – but this is at odds with the tone of the rest of the film.

Hopefully SPECTRE will live up to the legacy of those first five Connery films. Please, please, please…

Hit: You Only Live Twice

Hidden Gem: Capsule In Space

Rocks In The Attic #143: John Barry – ‘From Russia With Love (O.S.T.)’ (1963)

The second Bond film, and John Barry’s first full soundtrack (he had only arranged and conducted the James Bond Theme for Dr. No), this is where the music starts to become a key part in the Bond story. Barry’s brass-laden scores are an integral component of the Bond ‘sound’ and this comes fully formed here, ready for the global spotlight that would be cast on the series during the release of the next film, Goldfinger, one year later.

From Russia With Love is clearly one of the better Bond films, if the not the best one outright, and the soundtrack is notable for the first appearance of the instrumental theme 007, which scores the gypsy camp fight scene in the film. Considered to be the ‘secondary’ James Bond theme, this pops up in several films during Sean Connery’s tenure; and only once since, in 1979’s Moonraker starring Roger Moore.

The vocal version of the film’s title song, sung by Matt Munro, is one of my favourite Bond songs – and it always amuses me to change the word ‘Russia’ to ‘Rusholme’, changing the tone of the song quite considerably from the subject matter of espionage, to a simple love song about a man bringing a curry home for his wife.

Hit: From Russia With Love – Matt Munro

Hidden Gem: 007