[JBR listener Matthew Grice returns with the third part in his “what if,” alternate universe series. If you haven’t already, check out part one and part two]
Peter Hunt’s favourite Ian Fleming novel was ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,’ calling it the most ‘realistic novel of them all’ and wanted to direct a faithful adaption of it. In the novel James Bond is asked to marry Countess Teresa Di Vicenzo, daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, a criminal mastermind in exchange for details of where Blofeld is to be found. Bond poses as Sir Hillary Bray, a genealogist from London’s College of Arms, whom Blofeld has been in contact with and infiltrates Blofeld’s operation. This is the first time they have come face to face. Bond however does fall in love and marries Teresa but she is then shot by Blofeld.
However, EON and the writers had a problem. In the novel ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, Bond and Blofeld met for the first time yet in the film ‘From Russia With Love’, made five years earlier, Blofeld knew what Bond looked like.
So when it came to ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, an additional scene was written where Bond underwent plastic surgery to look exactly like Sir Hillary Bray, and when his cover was blown, a painful and torturous scene was created that saw Blofeld unmask Sir Hillary to reveal James Bond. This is also the first time that the audience sees Blofeld, who is played by American actor Telly Savalas.
The film was in production over 1968 and 1969 and was released on December 18th of that year, at a budget of $7,000,000. Lazenby was paid $500,000 for the part, even though he was only seen in 30% of the film. Lazenby had been given a contract to do seven Bond films, but his agent advised him not to, as he couldn’t see Bond surviving the next decade. However, he agreed to do another Bond film, where he would play 100% the character.
The box office for ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ made $64,000,000 and was a disappointment compared to the last three Bond films. Was Lazenby’s agent right? Was Bond going to survive the 70’s? Or was it that the audience didn’t accept the new actor? Like most things, time always tells, and now ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ is considered by many fans to be their ultimate favorite.
Unlike the previous two films, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was a close adaption of Fleming’s novel, and to say Lazenby had no acting experience, he did a fine job playing Bond.
The next film was to be ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and was going to be Lazenby’s second and final one. EON had offered more money to Connery for him to reprise his role but he declined. This was all done in secret as EON didn’t want to insult Lazenby by offering the part back to Connery. EON believed that this wasn’t the end of Bond and so simply gave Lazenby another chance.
Peter Hunt however, didn’t return as director as he wasn’t happy with the script and resumed his position as editor. Terence Young came back, as it was felt that Bond needed a cold and tougher edge. Young had fulfilled that with ‘Dr No’ and ‘From Russia With Love’.
After Blofeld had killed Bond’s wife, and ‘SPECTRE’ being responsible for Vesper Lynds death in ‘Casino Royale’, Bond was fully set on revenge.
Telly Savalas reprised his role as Ernest Stavro Blofeld, as well as Iise Steppart as Irma Bunt, who Bond killed in the pre-title sequence. Blofeld’s latest scheme was to smuggle diamonds from Las Vegas, South Africa and Amsterdam to power a satellite that could destroy certain parts of the world. Also Gert Frobe returns as Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother Aurum, who wants to avenge his brother’s death. However, unlike his brother, Aurum is a member of ‘SPECTRE’, and he too wants Bond dead. Like ‘You Only Live Twice’, this is the second film that was to be very different to the novel. Only the location, the name of the leading lady and two homosexual psychopaths remained the same.
‘Diamonds Are Forever’ consisted of the most action a Bond film had seen yet. From a high speed chase in the city of Las Vegas, to a car chase across a dessert, to a huge shoot out in Spectreville and finally leading up to the longest running climax so far in a Bond film. This consisted of frogmen jumping out of helicopters to blow an oil rig up whilst killing more ‘SPECTRE’ operatives. Bond finally catches up with Blofeld, which then leads to a balloon chase from the exploding oil rig to a salt mine, where Bond and Blofeld battle it out in hand to hand combat, for ten minutes. Finally Blofeld falls to his death in a giant salt grinder. All of which, proved to be a success, and made $90,000 at the box office.
Could the rise in box office status be anything to do with action and the biggest story so far for the world of Bond? Critics had remarked that Lazenby ‘seemed slicker this time round, but was still no Connery’. The film was considered to be very gritty and was a perfect sequel to ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and a nice finish to Blofeld and ‘SPECTRE’.
Since EON had won the rights to use ‘SPECTRE’, they wanted to make the most of it and they did. After five films, EON decided that Bond needed to face new enemies and that maybe the audience were getting sick of ‘SPECTRE’. “McClory can do whatever he fucking likes with them now”, remarked Saltzman.
The producers had approached Lazenby for what would be potentially his third film, but he declined. Lazenby simply couldn’t adapt to the strict commitments and lifestyle that one has to endure during the film making process. He also felt that he wasn’t good enough for the public as he had begun to realise that they wanted Sean Connery back. Finally he took his agents advice and stepped down from the role of Bond.
Come 1972, the hunt for another James Bond began. This time the role of Bond went to Roger Moore, who was originally going to replace Connery but was unavailable due to ‘The Saint’. Now after doing 24 episodes of ‘The Persuaders’ with Tony Curtis, Moore was finally available.
Guy Hamilton had returned as director for Moore’s debut in the film ‘Live And Let Die’ and production began in 1972, for a 1973 release. The producers brought back Tom Mankiewicz to co-write the script with Maibuam. Mankiewicz had first been brought in to co-write ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ but very few of his lines were used. Young felt that they weren’t appropriate for the character. However, with Roger Moore in the role, the lines that weren’t used for ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ were weaved into the script for ‘Live And Let Die’.
Like the novel it felt that the film should be based around voodoo, and was the first Bond film to be filmed in Jamaica since ‘Dr No’. It was also the first film to feature a black actor as the villain. At the time a new genre in film had begun and was known as ‘Blaxploitation’, which is today’s equivalent of Bollywood. It is said that the film ‘Shaft’ had started the ‘Blaxploitation’ craze off and it seemed right for ‘Live And Let Die’ to follow.
One of the many reasons why Bond has survived is because it goes along with the times. Even though some films have made more at the box office than others, Bond always pulls through.
Moore’s first Bond film was made on a budget of $7,000,000 and made $126,000,000 at the box office which was a huge difference to ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. Does this mean that the world preferred Moore to Lazenby?
Unfortunately for the next film, the numbers dropped once again. The producers decided that ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, which was Fleming’s last novel before his death, would be the next film to star Roger Moore as Agent 007. Originally, ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ had been considered as the film after ‘You Only Live Twice’ and would have meant that this would have been Roger Moore’s first Bond film, if he had got the contract. The film was intended to be set in Cambodia, but the Samlaut uprising rendered production there impractical.
As with ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Live And Let Die’ only certain parts were taken from the novel. However, like ‘You Only Live Twice’, it was decided that the storyline for the film would relate to real life events and at that particular time it was the energy crisis. Also at the time Bruce Lee was making it big with Kung Fu and martial arts films so it was decided that Bond would follow suit, so a number of martial art scenes were to be included in the film.
It was also felt that the villain Scaramanga, played by legendary actor Christopher Lee, should come across as the darker, alter ego to Bond. This can be compared to Venom in the later Spider Man films.
The film opened in 1974 and grossed $97,000,000 at the box office, which was a huge drop, compared to the previous film.
It would be three painful years for fans and EON Productions before James Bond returned to the big screen.
Back in 1961, McClory had taken Fleming to court for plagiarism as McClory alleged that Fleming had stolen an idea for a plot from himself and Whittingham. It was ruled that Fleming had used their plot for his novel ‘Thunderball’ and Fleming had to pay both McClory and Whittingham damages. McClory was told by the judge that he could make his own Bond film based on ‘Longitude 78 West’ in fifteen years’ time. This was something that McClory certainly didn’t forget and in 1976 those fifteen years would be up. McClory had started planning his film in 1974 and with his love of underwater filming; a major part of his film would include underwater scenes. McClory also wanted to make an updated version of ‘Longitude 78 West’.
With McClory having the original scripts he employed spy novelist Len Deighton to polish it up and update it. The film was to feature robotic sharks which carried ammunition and nuclear warheads, through the sewers of New York to their target, the Statue of Liberty.
Meanwhile back at EON, the partnership between Broccoli and Saltzman had ended. This was due to Saltzman being in massive debt and having to sell his share to United Artists who distributed the Bond films. This had delayed the next Bond film from going ahead. What Broccoli thought regarding Kevin McClory isn’t known, but can probably be guessed. There was nothing Broccoli could do about an ‘outsider’ making a Bond film. The deal was made months before Broccoli and Saltzman had bought the film rights for the remaining novels.
However, Broccoli wasn’t best pleased when it was announced that Connery would return as James Bond in Kevin McClory’s ‘Warhead’ that had begun production in New York in early 1976.
McClory and Columbia, who were distributing the film, financed ‘Warhead’. After the court case of 1961, Xanadu Productions officially closed and McClory had invested his share wisely, having more than enough to finance ‘Warhead’. McClory was now in control and made it known. He was now making his dream come true and there was no one to stop him. This time there was no Alfred Hitchcock take over. Ironically McClory had appointed a Hitchcock inspired director who went by the name of Brian De Palma. De Palma had previously finished ‘Obsession’, which was a remake of Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’. However, with De Palma being inspired by Hitchcock it made McClory wonder if he would have the same habits. Fortunately for McClory, he didn’t.
‘SPECTRE’ is now back but is more mafia/gangster style than had previously been seen before. McClory felt that De Palma would be perfect to give ‘Warhead’ the mafia style. Robert De Niro even had a cameo as a SPECTRE agent, with Blofeld being played by Peter Cushing.
Ricou Browning Jr, whose father had worked on ‘Longitude 78 West’, did the underwater photography. McClory had wanted Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewellyn to join the cast as Moneypenny, ‘M’ and ‘Q’, but they all politely declined, as they were quite clearly loyal to EON productions. The only reason Connery was back was because he was getting paid $2,500,000. Connery was also being given creative control over the screenplay and a position as producer. McClory wanted to use the iconic gun barrel sequence that was first seen in ‘Dr No’, followed by the pre-title sequence and a Maurice Binderesque title sequence as well as the use of ‘The James Bond Theme’. These however, were all trademarks that made the EON Bond films famous and were strictly licensed to EON.
This was a frustration to McClory but he did however, employ John Williams to score ‘Warhead’. Williams composed a ‘new’ James Bond Theme, which can be heard over the opening titles and throughout the film.
Meanwhile, Albert Broccoli was the sole producer of EON and had begun production on his 10th Bond film ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. When Fleming had sold the film rights, the agreement was that the title could only be used and not the story. Fleming was embarrassed by the novel as it was an experiment piece, and Bond didn’t appear until three quarters of the way through the book. The story had been in first person perspective and wasn’t well received. Fleming disliked the novel so much that he tried to cancel the publication of it, but failed.
Albert Broccoli had brought in director Lewis Gilbert, who had directed Connery in ‘You Only Live Twice’. Gilbert brought in writer Christopher Wood to give Bond more humor and give him a lighter edge. Gilbert felt that Moore’s incarnation of Bond in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ was too much like Connery’s and simply wasn’t working. An early draft by Richard Maibuam, had featured an atomic bomb and involved the villain blackmailing certain countries. However, McClory was soon claiming that it was very much like ‘Warhead’ and threatened to place a court injunction to prevent ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ being made. Broccoli quickly demanded a fresh script, as he didn’t want the film to be delayed any longer.
In 1976 the worlds media were having a field day claiming that there was a ‘Battle of the Bonds’, due to the fact that there were two Bond films in production at the same time. Asked in an interview, “if the other Bond film worries you”, Broccoli said “there’s nothing to worry about if I’m making a good film”.
In the summer of 1977 the fans of James Bond were treated to, not one, but two Bond films. Albert R Broccoli’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach and Kurt Jürgen, alongside that of Kevin McClory’s ‘Warhead’ starring Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset as Domino and Jack Nicolson as Largo.
‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ was given a budget of $14,000,000, which was the highest amount yet for a Bond film. The film made $185,000,000 at the box office, whereas ‘Warhead’ was made on a budget of $11,000,000 and made $179,000,000 at the box office.
Broccoli’s Bond had come out on top, but this was still a frighteningly close shave and certainly put Broccoli and his team on edge thinking that McClory could quite easily make another Bond film after the success of ‘Warhead’. Of course six years later McClory was to make another film based upon ‘Longitude 78 West’.
Broccoli was still happy with the success of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ as it was the highest grossing film that had starred Moore as Bond, and gave him hope that Bond could survive another decade.
Broccoli had originally intended ‘For Your Eyes Only’ to be the next Bond film, but with the huge success of ‘Star Wars’ in May 1977, Broccoli decided to make ‘Moonraker’, where Bond goes to outer space.
Christopher Wood was once again brought in to work alongside Richard Maibuam to provide the script, which was very different from Flemings 3rd novel. Broccoli had looked back at the Gerry Anderson script and liked it, but then was advised by Michael Wilson, Broccoli’s stepson, not to consider it as it was more of a Saltzman collaboration and feared facing another law case. Lewis Gilbert was also asked to return for his last outing as director.
Due to the Eady Levy , the 11th EON film was to be produced in France, and filming began in 1978 for a 1979 summer release.
During production, Roger Moore had made an unexpected announcement that ‘Moonraker’ would be his last film as he felt he was getting too old for the part. At the age of fifty one, he had begun to feel uncomfortable being in bed with girls young enough to be his daughter, and felt that the series could do with a younger and fitter Bond. Broccoli respected his decision, as it was reasonable, and the hunt for another Bond began.
‘Moonraker’ was Moore’s fourth outing and starred Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax and Lois Chiles as Dr Holly Goodhead. The film was made on a budget of $34,000,000 and made $210,000,000 at the box office. This was the highest grossing Bond film of all time. Also the title song, performed by Johnny Mathis reached number one in the UK music charts. This was the first time a Bond song had reached such a great high in the United Kingdom. The hunt was on again for a fourth actor to play Flemings creation.
Wikipedia James Bond Box Office
Wikipedia Diamonds Are Forever
The Battle For Bond by Robert Sellers ISBN 10: 0-9531926-3-6
Spectreville and Lazenby in Vegas created by Kimberly Dewhurst
By Matthew Grice
Great job, Matthew! These are always fun to read.