I, Da Ca$hman's Movie Reviews

U Can't Beat Me Man!

How will reviews be organized?

Chronologically. You will see Raging Bull (1980) under Goodfellas (1990).

Requests

You can ask for them, but do keep in mind I have PLENTY to go through.

Ratings System

Ratings tend to not be the best indicators of opinions - for a better understanding read the entire review. However, ratings are also quick. So here is a quick legend of what these ratings might mean. Note that if there are multiple options, these options can merge in the hurricane that is my mentality.vAll ratings are made with both objective quality of the movie and personal opinion in mind. Reviews are made looking for all aspects of the movies, however seeking the positives as a priority over the negatives. If my rankings were chosen with a different method, this list would be entirely different.

0/5 - Nothing going for this movie. Example: A.V.P.:R.-Un:R[4.0]]{BETA}

1/5 - Barely anything going for this movie. Example: Batman & Robin

2/5 - Option A. Overrated. Example: The Amazing Spiderman. Option B. Had a lot of potential but it didn't fall through. Example: Alice in Wonderland (2010) Option C. Nothing new, nothing special, and synthetic. Example: Dolphin Tale. Option D. At least they tried. Example: Alien 3

3/5 - Option A. Cheesy and Fun, the best and worst of Popcorn Entertainment. Example: Piranaconda Option B. Good, Okay, but nothing that I even recommend by any stretch of the imagination. Just check it out if you're bored to death. Example: Highlander

3.5/5 - Very good, enjoyable. It's a fun time, and I recommend it, but don't rush out to the theaters. Something you would rent on Netflix. Example: Dracula 2000

3.8/5 Close to awesome but just great. Example: Iron Man

4/5 - Awesome but not perfect. Example: Batman Returns

5/5 - Between 90% done overtly well or 95% done well. Example: Batman Begins

5.5/5 - 95% Done overtly well or 100% done well. Example - Return of the Jedi

6/5 - Beyond Perfection. 100% done overtly well. Example: Cloverfield

All decimals represent a space in between these ratings.

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Oedipus the King in a Nutshell (2011)

It's time to review my movie. The extended edition.

Unlike The Cyclops, there isn't some sort of ridiculous backstory to this...well, that's a lie, we still fucked up pretty bad. The first draft of the script of this feature was heavily altered from the finished project. There was originally a lot of swearing, something about a strawberry short cake I'm not really sure, and a lot more sexual allusions. This, naturally, disrupted our language arts teacher, who happened to be a year-long substitute for our actual language arts teacher who had been on maternity leave. With all this in mind, I feel we should all have a moment of silence in memorial of the greatest line ever conceived for the silver screen...."FUCK YOU GUYS, I'M GONNA GO GET BLAZED WITH CREON!"

I was lucky though. I actually had a co-director working with me this time so it wouldn't be the biggest train wreck in cinematic history. I shall refer to him by his last name, Mr. Ridel. It was especially awesome that I got work with him because he's a regular movie creator. You can see at his YouTube account, TheTraxProductions, a filmography that features a lot of moaning and shirtless teenage boys. We also got to work on location, so that we wouldn't HAVE A BLANK GREENSCREEN IN THE BACKGROUND THE WHOLE TIME. It's still really funny seeing people pass in the hall ways and the graffiti on the walls, even though it's supposed to be year zero. 

I had asked him for a favor in the editing department. Beginning/Ending credits. He didn't do this. In fact, he kind of screwed up in the editing department. So because I'm the egotistical asshole I am, I went ahead and cut my own version of the movie. In attempting to exhibit this fine feature to our English class, YouTube fucked up worse than Lance Armstrong and Freddie Mercury having a charity orgy to cure cancer. We ended up showing Mr. Ridel's cut of the picture, which was one of the most embarrassing moments for everybody involved in the production. I sincerely apologize for any mass murders that may have occurred as a result of the international premiere.

So now to how the actual movie plays out. It starts screaming WINDOWS MOVIE MAKER at you before informing you that "Tserval Pictures" (yeah I have a production company for anybody that didn't know) is presenting a "Trax Productions" film. (So basically I'm taking credit for somebody else's work.) Speaking of which, the next thing is a roll of the beginning credits where everybody is alluded to but not actually specified, both character and personnel. I thought this was "cool" at the time. It just makes me look like a complete hack job. It should also be noted that I used a wrestling theme for this scene. As if I didn't already look like a loser...

So the man that probably made this movie any sort of success, Mr. Ridel, comes out saying "HELLO MY PEOPLE!" even though there's like, three or four people on set and absolutely no crowd noise whatsoever. Amazingly Powerful, who was Illianidas in The Cyclops, runs up to Mr. Ridel yelling "help us, help us!" and then immediately vanishes at the cut, mumbling in the background. According to the extended edition, he is mumbling about being a drunkard. He's a priest. Remember this people. This is the part where I come in, and DAMN I may or may not have lost weight in the last year and a quarter!

I proceed to completely harass my kayfabe brother and act like a 90's kid. This gag ran for probably the rest of the school year with the rest of the cast members. It's also noteworthy that Oedipus Rex ruled under the Boulder Valley School District. Yeah that shouldn't result in any lawsuits... After my embarrassing, loud and awesome rant, Mr. Ridel is all chill and quiet, just asking simple questions. Kind of tired....this is possibly the first instance of the word "freakasaurus" being used since Fred Durst, Aaron Carter and Avril Lavinge were all relevant...which reminds me...DUDE, HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE ROB LIEFELD?!?!

You know something's wrong with your script when you have to explain your own lingo immediately. Which, for some reason, reminds me. Ladies and Gentlemen, it's about time that Da Ca$hman gives some dating advice. A.) Don't be nearly as big as I am. B.) If you are as big as I am, don't ever, AND DA CA$HMAN MEANS EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER, slap your ass on camera. Just don't fucking do it....Oh hi, Matthew, where'd you come from and why do you sound like you're about to fall asleep?

Although I gotta admit it was a pretty good idea to throw in a Nike product placement. Granted, we didn't get paid, but we didn't get sued, so it's sort of a win/lose 50/50 elbow/elbow nudge/nudge wink/wink double/double super/mega/mecha/metallica/death/christ/version/4.0/beta situation....now see, Matthew?Look at Tiersierseiaaplzis. He not only waits to be called upon to show up, but he also requires his own text transition. Granted, it flashes on screen for a tenth of a second, but it makes him look more professional. Yeah. This kid's going to be a Hollywood star someday.

Let it be known that if some Asian kid says that you killed the former King of the land, you can merely swipe your problems under the rug by using the Frankenstein method to kill the little asshole. Just lightly put your hands against his neck and squirm around like a worm, he'll drop dead instantly...is that a tumble weed? You know it was filmed in Colorado when there's a TUMBLE WEED in the middle of ANCIENT GREECE. But hey, we're already filming at a High School with graffiti on the walls and Da Ca$hman doing a 90's kid voice, you can't get much more ridiculous, right?...

OH HOLY FUCK.

RIDEL.

AS A TRANSVESTITE.

I HAVE NO WORDS.

At this point I fucking wish I could tell you it was all an April Fool's Joke. Listen, dude, I respect you as an artist and as a friend, but what you did there was sooo overboard. I don't know why I didn't vouch for changing the role, maybe because we didn't have any girls in our group but holy shit. I'm going to use my backstage power and politicing better next time. I knew it wasn't a great idea and as much as I try to laugh at it...brother, you as your own wife is weird...like really freaking weird...like weirder than robot zombie unicorn midget porn or whatever Ray William Johnson jokes about...

I'm not trying to insult you, brother, but...AGH!

I don't think I can continue. That was just so shocking. So weird. So low to the ground...and yet...so....French...

What a handsome face...what a funny mouth...don't be so sad about it...

Be French.

Maybe we can meet up again sometime...maybe we can remake this wonderful picture.

And give it an X-Rating.

Oh yeah, Jocasta, you know all you want is to nibble on my carrots and oats.

My tongue is waiting.

Be French.

...........

..............

..............

Happy April Fool's Day.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Spirited Away (2001)

“You can watch all your pretty lights, and you can watch all your mutant blue cats, while we have the most important anime film of all time.” – Japan.

MIYAZAKI’S GIFT: PRODUCTION

Hayao Miyazaki. You’ve probably heard of him. Castle in the Sky. My Neighbor Totoro. His Wikipedia picture makes him look like a billionaire lost in a Lady Gaga music video. Sometimes compared to Walt Disney. This guy, ever summer, would spend his time in a random cabin in the middle of a town called Bumfuck, Japan. He would spend this time with his family and five girls who were “friends of the family.” (Bow-chicka-bow-wow bang dang a diddy.)* He “loved” these people so much that he wanted to make a movie for them.

*(Bow-chicka-bow-wow up-jump the boogey.)

Hayao had previously worked on movies aimed at anybody from the ages of nothin’ to eighteen, such as Kiki’s Delivery Service, but never something…aimed at ten year olds…ummm….I’m gonna need to edit that first paragraph…aren’t I?...fuck you Wikipedia…Redo: Hayao had previously worked on movies aimed at anybody from the ages of nothin’ to eighteen, but never something specifically aimed at a demographic centering around fifth grade. After the girls left, he discovered they had left some Shojo magainzes lying around. He attempted to find inspiration in them, but the target demographic was incorrect and, besides, the stories were often shallow, Twilight-esc stories about crushes. This, to Miyazaki, was not what girls held “true to their hearts” and tried to produce heroin that they could admire.

*Japanese stories and media aimed at girls between 10-18.

It wasn’t like Miyazaki was fattened by work anyways. He hadn’t made a movie in years. Tried to write two different proposals, but they both were rejected. Both of these stories centered around the same bathhouse in Miyazaki’s hometown. He decided to complete some sort of a trilogy and focus his proposal for this film on that same bathhouse. The bathhouse was built as a mysterious, ominous, pulling force, and put extra focus on a small door that was built next to a bathtub. Miyazaki himself was always curious about what was behind the door, and finally explored this in his third story, Sen and Chihiro Spirited Away.

“I created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize. It's not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like that, and I think they, too, have such a wish.” – Hayao Miyazaki.

The story was approved by Studio Ghibli. Production began early in the year 2000 at a budget of 1.9 Billion yen. ($25017897.37 in modern dollars.) Continuing a process that had begun with Princess Mononoke, computer animation was experimented with in this traditionally animated movie. There was a process where the animators became fully familiar with the Softimage software, but kept the process at a minimum so that it would enhance the story, not steal the show. God, I like this movie already.

With all the characters hand-drawn, Miyazaki worked as closely as possible to make sure that the characters were perfect. What he didn’t realize was that the script was about two hundred million thousand pages. Seriously, the movie would’ve been three hours long if they went according to plot. He decided to remove a ton of scenes in the movie, focusing on the “eye-candy.” He didn’t want the leading lady to be a pretty girl. He didn’t want her to dull, just warm and charming…Good idea. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m not going to edit that first paragraph.

SPIRITED AWAY: REVIEW

Man, I remember way back when, Cartoon Network showed this late at night or something. I think it was Toonami, though that’d be an odd thing to show on Toonami…okay, I’m going to be honest, that’s the best introduction I got. This movie’s totally out of this world. Weird beyond what I expected. It’s got elements of everything from a careless Disney cartoon to a philosophical and eerie Lovecraft story…nope, still stuck on the ability to make a proper introduction. Almost had it.

Since this is an anime film, you might want to be talking about the animation…I’ll admit it’s not the best I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. Mainly in terms of the motion. Feels like not all the frames were animated fully. Not to the point where the movie looks unprofessional, definitely not. Just where it feels jumpy and sometimes more cartoonish than it needed to be. I suspect this has something with Miyazaki keeping ten year old girls in mind. Does it get in the way of the seriousness of the scene…It would, if it weren’t for all the good stuff in the movie.

As far as the rest of the aspects of the animation go, it’s pretty damn good. The character designs mostly satisfy. They aren’t the most impressive and not innovative in the slightest, but completely accomplish the tasks that were set out. Chihiro is supposed to be a very simple girl, likewise her design is basic. Basic, but still giving a heavy (but not forceful) emphasis on the emotions that a “basic” sort of character can possess, mostly nervousness and true human sympathy.

The other major highlight of the character designs is “No Face.” They have successfully created a symbolic item (in this case a mask) that stands for both the deception that “No Face” puts other characters through; while simultaneously transcending through itself to show the true emotion of the character. Those things would seem to conflict and how impressive is it that they perfectly coexist? His body mass is mostly a large thing of smoke…at the beginning. By the climax of the movie, it’s a massive transparent spider, and the thing looks horrifying.

[MINOR/MODERATE SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARGRAPH]

You wanna talk about symbols, huh? Yeah, we can talk about visual symbolism. The parents whom are tempted by both greed and gluttony, and are swiftly transformed into pigs? Yeah, that’s there. There’s the overtly sheltered baby who cannot “stand for himself” in the protection of his mother, who is brainwashed into thinking he will “get sick if he goes outside,” but once he is taken “outside” he sees that he was sick the whole time inside of the decorated prison, and finally can stand for himself. Amongst other things. Only thing I wish is that some of these details weren’t explained. Sure, you’re aiming at kids, but don’t you think that the whole visual symbolism thing is something you would save for adults? Adults who can make their own conclusions?

Some of the dialogue is a bit corny. You notice it within the first opening scenes of the movie, but eventually you get used to it. I wouldn’t be quoting the movie – and keep in mind I watched the Japanese version – but it fits. You want a movie about a simple character, Miyazaki? A simple character that is still emotionally relatable? Then go ahead and add simple, corny dialogue that touches at a desire we all have for things to be easier to digest, even if they are unnecessarily humorous. It’s not just appealing to kids in this way, it’s appealing to everybody who misses their childhood. It does it right.

You’d be surprised to hear a movie that was made for ten year old girls, not to mention a movie that cut an hour of the original plot, is actually kind of slow. It takes the first 50-60 minutes just as setup. This is a two hour movie. Normally this would probably prove to be the movie’s fatal flaw, but in a situation this insane, you either explain everything waaay too quick or take this much time to show the audience what is going on. It’s all kept interesting to watch when everything (and that’s a boatload in this case) is explained slowly and other things are continuing to happen. It also doesn’t bother taking it’s sweet time making any resolutions. You’ll probably have three minutes of footage at the end that you can call aftermath.

A couple of the characters are a little off. “No Face’s” voice was terribly cast and I’d be interested to see how he sounds in the dub. Yubaba feels like a villain less out of any actual corruption, but more for reasons like “she has to be, because of the rules,” getting easily agitated, and being ugly. Or “being a little witch.” There’s a certain extent to which I will accept overly simple characters for the sake of a simple story (how simple exactly?) but that’s a little overdoing it. The characters who are good, such as Chihiro, Lin, and my personal favorite Kamaji, also known as Dr. Eggman, who did not get nearly enough screentime, are more than satisfactory.

The music. Hot loving damnation the music. Joe Hisashi, who are you and why are you such a genius?..Oh. Princess Mononoke. Howl’s Moving Castle. I see how it is. The majority of the score is sweeping “epic” orchestra with minor undertones representing the mood of what’s onscreen. If you’re not listening in to the music explicitly, it enhances the mood. If you listen in explicitly, it adds a level of that corny humor. You’ve got this thing that’s only remotely different from the best John Williams scores while there’s possibly some really cartoonish things happening on screen. It works. It fits. It’s good. Especially the ending song.

Imma stop it here before I really run out of things to say. I think I’ll be watching this again someday. Is it the masterpiece that everybody claims it is?...Nah. It has enough problems to declare that it is not perfect, even if we’re going by me pseudo-logic that the intensity of well executed things can make up for minor faults. But I still highly recommend it, if nothing for the power of suggestion in art. But there’s a bunch of other awesome stuff too. The Rating? I shall grant this picture a 5.4/5. Thanks DoogJMusic. I owe you one.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time on The Request-A-Thon 2: Are you really who you say you are?

Donnie Darko (2001)

Every living creature on Earth dies alone.

REVIEW

This is probably one of the strangest cases of fandoms I’ve ever seen. Donnie Darko is not known by everybody, it has a small enough following to be considered a cult film. Yet this cult is comprised neither of the stereotypical cult member or the stereotypical film expert. Rather, it is in fact the everyday person who would normally not be prone to obsession, these people who would normally gather en masse. The only possible deviation of Darko’s following is that they all seem to be emotionally and intellectually free. They are unique and potentially successful people. It rather fits concerning this film.

Our titular character is a high school boy played by Jake Gyllenhaal, known for Source Code, The Day After Tomorrow and Brokeback Mountain. It’s 1988 and Donnie is going to a high school in Middlesex, Virginia, where the norms are uniforms and the residences are exactly what the children of the 21st century must thank the divine powers for being saved from. Donnie suffers from a mental disorder that is not specified,* is probably the smartest guy in a thousand mile radius, has no social skills, and cannot adhere to any sort of authority, especially those of the bullshit variety.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about Donnie. Oh, believe me, that’s not including any of the important stuff. You want the important stuff you get to checking it out for yourself. As for Jake’s performance as Donnie…who the Hell is Jake? I only know of Donnie. I’m sure it helps that Donnie’s character is expertly drawn in the writing of this movie, so Jake wasn’t exactly facing a huge challenge as far as his own creativity. You still got to give him props for putting on one of the most persuading performances [...]. This is exactly how the character of Donnie Darko would act and every bit of it is fascinating.

In fact, a lot of the cast is like this. Jim Cunningham played by Patrick Swayze (RIP), Katherine Farmer played by Beth Grant, all of the Darko family…there’s the bunch of them. This entire world feels fully fleshed out and natural, as if I’m looking at actual events that took place in 1988. There are, however, a couple of actors who I’m not so found of. Chertia Chen, played by Jolene Purdy, feels really unnecessary. She’s another sympathetic character amongst a couple of ‘em that have perfect chemistry. She also only speaks one or two lines throughout the entire movie, yet she’s one of the starkest side-characters. I hate to think that she was merely added just to play the race and weight cards.

The film’s pacing is somehow slow and engaging at the same time. There aren’t a ton of movies that make me feel like I’ve just spent three times as much time in the screen as I really have, and then continues to make me want to spend nine times as much as I just did. The purpose of this successfully pulled off experiment is to put yourself into Donnie’s mindset. Those twenty-eight days must have seen like the longest days of his life, in addition to being the most intense and emotionally impactful. So much happened and yet the absence of the film’s events leaves a yearning for it to all happen again. It’s been a couple days since I first saw it, and since I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

Oh the eighties. How the eighties rule and are lovingly captured in this movie. I’ve already discussed the school. Uniforms, a fake sense of school spirit, the stereotypically uptight teachers and the one good teacher who gets fired. There’s also the wonderful Dukakis vs. Bush presidential campaign of 1988 that Bush unfortunately won. There’s also a costume party where a guy dressed up as Hulk Hogan. And what’s even more badass is that he’s a really important character. And the soundtrack…oh bajeezus, when it’s not creepy, it’s the most eighties soundtrack made since the eighties ended.

The cinematography in this movie, for the most part, is exponentially standard, cookie-cutter filming. There are very subtle differences between ways certain scenes are shot that I feel may be construed as mood-builders and I shall discuss these points now. There are a lot of scenes where Donnie remains very calm, sometimes for the reason that he already knows what the rest of the characters are attempting to figure out. In these scenes that camera moves smoothly with few cuts and many arcs. It sort shows him thinking clearly. These scenes also feature non-standard camera angles for one reason or another, possibly showing how he “sees things from a different angle.”

In scenes where Donnie would be frustrated with the situation, the cuts become more and more rapid and less smooth motions are made, showing his mode of thinking has become more frantic. And in the scenes where Donnie has achieved an intellectual or spiritual pinnacle, mostly those featuring Frank in the “hallucination”* form, the camera stays in exactly one place. This shows a solid and completely confident state of mind, even amidst the chaotic nature of his environment. This last bit I believe to be the most solid of my theories.

The computer generated images of this film are not impressive by today’s standards. Especially for the “chest worms” as I shall call them. Those things bare the “computer plastic” incredibly well. They  move in a way that one would not expect, which makes sense in the movie’s plot but still makes me think “COMPUTER EFFECT, COMPUTER EFFECT, COMPUTER EFFECT!!!” The “tornado” and any of the other computer effects in movie are not very realistic either, though not nearly as poor as the “chest worms.” But let’s put this in perspective. This was an independent movie.

Filmed in a whopping twenty-eight days, six hours, forty two minutes and twelve seconds. (Yeah that’s actually a fact.) Not to mention it was released in 2001. Now that we have some sort of a perspective, how could you not congratulate this film for its effects? Especially the tornado. I mean, something like that, despite its sub-par performance compared to the Avatars of today, could make it into the theater. You must give it up to this movie for finding its resources extremely well.

Beyond all of this. Beyond all of the technical aspects, which are done well for the presented budget; beyond all the characters, which are all portrayed expertly; beyond all the awesome sci-fi elements and interpretations; beyond all the novelties and the philosophies…at the core is something that is crucial to the art form of storytelling but is often missing in both the chronicle and the consumer. The message. The moral. The emotional reasoning for the creation of the film. Beyond all the stuff about death and life, about sex and love, about fear and hate and the entire spectrum of human emotion…there’s just one quote that sums it all up.

“I can do anything I want. And so can you.” - Frank.

That’s the point. I think, beyond everything else, the idea of this movie is emotional independence. That despite the rhetoric that is ingrained in our minds, despite the downfalls and pits of our lives…we are powerful beings with a control over ourselves. We are constantly told we are being manipulated, which is true, but we are told this in a way that implies we cannot change this fact. But we can change that. Our manipulation does not control us if we don’t want it to.

Everything is done for a reason and a conscious reason, and if the subconscious is getting in the way you have the power to fix that too. And if we are truly open minded, if we are not closed to the confines we are taught to believe, if we are not closed to the miracles that we are told are merely illusions of the insane…then the secrets of the universe shall be visible. They will have always been there, but only when we understand our own power and more so the true power of the universe, when we open our eyes and refuse to be blinded by the bullshit, we can use these secrets.

Not as if we are given permission, but rather the ability is finally gained through patience and acceptance. You are not to believe these false idols who attempt to control us using weaknesses that we ourselves have created, we are not to worship some all-controlling God in order to find direction, we are independent beings that can do whatever we damn well please and life is too fucking awesome to be seen as pointless even if you don’t serve a higher power. You are born into this universe of expansive amazement. You don’t need God, or a Jim Cunningham, or a Hitler, or a Franklin D. Roosevelt, or any other leader, to tell you why you are here. You don’t need a why. You need a, what should I do next? And the possibilities are endless.

Donnie Darko. Is fucking amazing. Whatever flaws it possesses have become novel charms, and everything good about it is so beyond the maximum. The last time I gave this rating out was nearly nine months ago. 6/5

DIRECTOR’S CUT*

[SPOILERS FORWARD]

So you know the Blu-Ray edition of this movie that’s out? I used that to watch it. And you know how it has two versions of the movie? I watched the second one. The director’s cut. Then the next day, since I found it so amazing, I watched the theatrical cut to see the differences. Now, rewind to before I watched the director’s cut. I thought it was going to be a Friday the 13th or Avatar thing where certain scenes are enhanced but very little is changed story wise. After sitting over both versions, I realized there were some significant things changed. Doing a little research, which I sort of wish I had done beforehand, I found out there was a fuckton of shit changed.

There are two major aesthetic changes that don’t affect the characters but do tend to affect the story. One is a reoccurring sequence where Donnie sees a variety of things in his left eye while his iris detracts and expands. This includes various forms of computer code and images of Frank. I don’t see much of a story reason to include or remove this piece. It seems to hint at the possibility of Donnie being a psychic, but honestly I’m fully convinced the audience could have figured that out on their own without that abstract hint. It does have quite the dramatic effect, even if it’s quite “trailer-ish,” it does add to the intensity especially when the loud audio of these scenes cuts straight to a quiet and calm setting.

The other major aesthetic difference shall be put aside until the end of this section of the review.

Getting to major plot changes, the first is that many scenes are expanded slightly but significantly. The emergency PTA meeting being one example where we get a better view of Ms. Farmer’s personality, as well as the Jim Cunningham Panel where we get to see so much more of kids embarrassing themselves and their siblings. The first major conversation between Donnie Darko and Gretchen Ross is also expanded upon, where we…get to know that Darko knows his inventive history really well? Yeah okay I guess maybe that scene was a little unnecessary. Established he was smart, sure, but in the wrong way.

One of the added scenes that is featured in this version is a scene where Donnie writes a poem that he shares with his language arts class that is centered around Frank. This scene is well acted and well shot but it just felt unnecessary. After my 3 viewings, director-theatrical-director, I did think to myself that the inclusion of this scene and one other scene disrupted the character of Darko. Here it damages – but does not destroy – the element of reclusion and isolation that a character like Donnie so expertly personifies and one that I, as well as many kids of this generation, relate to so well.

The other major scene that just felt really, really unnecessary, was a scene where Donnie’s class views a cartoon adaptation of Watership Down. This is pre-established by a scene where The Destructors is replaced by Watership Down. Donnie says some pretty disheartening things here. He talks about how apparently all the rabbits are good for are fucking and looking cute. That their life doesn’t matter because they don’t have historical archives – photographs and such. Based on the body language and vocal choices, it seems as if he also has offended his own girlfriend. I don’t get why Donnie needed this scene. It made him look like an asshole and thankless for the variety of life. The one really good thing that his scene did was plant the seed for the “deus ex machina” featured in the climax of the movie.

There’s also a scene where Dr. Thurman informs Donnie that the pills are placebos. I can’t decide whether or not this is a good decision. On the one hand, it disheartens the idea that Donnie broke away from the things controlling him. The pills were his artificial and false ruler just as Jim Cunningham is for Kittie Farmer. If they were placebos, then it breaks this parallel. On the other hand, if we know the pills are placebos, it shows that Donnie was really in control of his mind the entire time, even if subconsciously. This is a huge part of the movie’s message. So…I can’t really decide. But the fact that something so iffy was added in later is a little discouraging.

And there’s a ton of other scenes added into the director’s cut, such as one where Donnie’s dad has a drink with his son and talks about pretty much how everybody is full of shit. These scenes that I’m skipping over are typically developing character in the right direction and don’t take away too much from the pacing of the film, though I’d say if you want the faster version you’d look towards the theatrical version. I’m skipping over the rest of these scenes because I really want to get to the big point of discussion that seems to plague every comparison between the director’s and theatrical cuts of the movie.

The second major aesthetic difference that I alluded to earlier is that The Philosophy of Time Travel, a book that explains the events in the movie, is exhibited visually throughout the film. This is the subject of a lot of controversy and the big reason why the director’s cut gets so much hate from critics. Their main gripe is that when these pages are exhibited it doesn’t let the audience “figure it all out” and takes away from the mystery. On the one hand I can completely understand what they’re talking about. On the other hand I think they’re being a little too harsh. I’ll use my favorite film of all time, Cloverfield, to explain.

Cloverfield, in my egotistical opinion, if nothing else, is the best movie that leaves things “up to the audience’s imagination.” I’m sure I’m getting aficionados screaming at me for saying that, people are going to cite anybody from Kubrick to Nolan. But that’s for another discussion table. Cloverfield does a lot to leave things up to the audience’s imagination. Firstly, the origin of the monster is not explained. There are heavy hints that the monster came from the ocean, but just enough hints at an extraterrestrial origin to keep the audience debating. Especially with the release of Super 8, which also had the involvement of J.J. Abrams.

Now here’s the thing. If there were any kind of hints that a tangent universe had occurred during the original theatrical release, you guys would pretty much be right for bashing this aspect of the director’s cut. That doesn’t happen though. Now, there’s tons of hints that time travel has occurred…in fact, it’s fairly obvious. There’s also a ton of hints that Frank is God or some other spiritual deity. And maybe I’m just stupid, but I never got the whole “tangent universe” thing in the original cut. The closest thing I can think of is Frank showing Donnie the portal during the Evil Dead film, but honestly that just goes along with the whole wormhole thing that was discussed during Donnie’s conversation with his science teacher. Well, not exactly, but enough to leave the attracted audience assuming that it’s all about time travel.

…Until the end.

If the theatrical version had never been released and we had so far explained all the events of this film as a mixture of schizophrenia and actual time travel, the ending would still be lingering…Kind of like Cloverfield, ironically. Whether it was the satellite or the oil truck that awoke that monster is a point of debate. In Donnie Darko, you could tell me that’s just a really intense tornado and this theory would be justifiable in the theatrical version. So now you’ve explained everything, made a bit of a stretch but walked away successful.

…Until the beginning.

The plane engine falling out of the sky for no apparent reason. That is the one thing that, to me, seems completely unexplainable without The Philosophy of Time Travel. It is at this point where the critics might have a point. Yet at the same time, bring it back to the main thing, Cloverfield. I figure there are so many hints yet so many explained elements in that movie that it’s enough to satisfy a jogging theorist, and in a group each having their own interpretation. While in Darko, the story could be unanimously solved whilst having that one anomaly present. It’s not quite as exciting in my opinion.

It’s funny. Seems like the haters of the director’s cut simultaneously underestimate and overestimate the fans of this film. They overestimate them by expecting them to possibly reach a conclusion of tangent universes, while they also underestimate them by assuming they would overthink the subject. I personally cannot tell you which one should be seen on an all-encompassing scale. I can tell you that if you hold either mystery or pace as the most important aspects of a movie, then the theatrical version is your flick. But if you value character or story as the most important aspect, then do see the director’s cut. If you see both of versions, see the director’s cut first. That is the most important piece of advice.

When it comes in regards to what the director’s cut adds, I think the pages of T-POTT replace an inevitably solved confusion with a highly sci-fi leaning puzzle of an alternative reality. It also, admittedly, allows a lot of potential fan fiction to happen within this universe. It, long and the short of it, makes it less an artsy picture and more a nerdy picture. The added scenes build characters significantly beyond the previous entries and the merits of the actors, thus adding much legitimate strength to them. In regards to what is taken away in the director’s cut, it’s simple. Mystery and pace. The picture is re-arranged to make sense. It solves the puzzle for you. Granted, whether it solves an unsolvable puzzle or not is hard to determine. The added nineteen minutes and forty-four seconds hurt the speed of the scene. There’s also some scenes that just strike me as against character, but, it may just be the difference between what I want the characters to be and what the director actually intended the character to be.

You should choose wisely.

But either way see the goddamn movie.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Memento (2000)

The first time a movie has been requested by two different people. The Green One and Sean Rightwizard should know as well as I do how long time coming this is.

SECTION ONE: PRODUCTION

I introduce to the audience Christopher and Jonathon Nolan as two brothers who took a cross-country road trip in July of 1996 between Chicago and Los Angeles, their purpose to relocate Christopher’s house to the West Coast. During the drive, John apparently got some magical epiphany outta nowhere and pitched an idea for a movie. When they arrived in Los Angeles, Chris was left to his own devices, working with the picture, and John shipped himself back to Washington, D.C. During a five month span Chris repeatedly badgered John to send him a first draft, and after months of Chris keeping John's wife hostage and torturing her, John finally complied, swelled up in tears.

John wrote his story as a narrative and Chris wrote a second draft as a screenplay. Chris had gotten the idea to write the story backwards, a narrative experimentation that would influence decisions made many times in the future. He would do other experiments of this nature in the future with movies like Batman Begins and The Prestige. After these projects were finished, Emma Thomas, Nolan’s girlfriend, attempted to sell the script to a distributor, finally coming upon, a company known for even weirder movie Donnie Darko. Aaron Ryder, the executive at the company, called it "perhaps the most innovative script I had ever seen.” He bought it with a budget of $4.5 Million and seven weeks of pre-production.

To play Leonard, they originally slated Brad Pitt to be the key player. He was busy. Good. Aaron Eckhart, one of Nolan’s buds, would also be nominated for playing that key role, as was Thomas Jane (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.) Eventually the role went to Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Prometheus, Iron Man 3.) At the time Guy Pearce was not an a-list actor, which caused Nolan to interpret him as a fresher face. Pearce’s clear enthusiasm for the role was another key factor in Nolan's choice. This can be documented in a personal phone call between Guy and Christopher regarding the part.

Mary McCormack (1408) had lobbied for the role of Natalie but did not lobby like it was congress, thus losing. Carrie-Anne Moss, who had previously been playing Trinity in The Matrix, had impressed producer Jennifer Todd and was suggested to play the part. Carrie impressed Nolan in a way that Mary apparently couldn’t bring to the plate. Dennis Leary (Ice Age, A Bug’s Life, The Amazing Spiderman) was considered for playing Teddy, but he proved to be unavailable. Moss suggested her previous co-star Joe Pantoliano, and Nolan was like “you know what, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”

Casting went by rather quickly after they had chosen those three characters. Filming began on September seventh of 1999 on a twenty five day shooting schedule with six days inactive, ending on October eighth. Guy Pearce was on the set every single day of the shoot, even days where he was not being shot. The three leads filmed scenes where all three of those characters were all present on one specific day. All of Carrie-Anne Moss’s scene were finished within the first week of shooting, and in the second week of shooting Mr. Joseph Pants began shooting.

The Travel Inn in the beautiful city of Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles, California, The United States, Wolfgang von Frankenstein III was repainted to be the interior and exterior of the motels featured in the film. Scenes in Sammy’s house were shot in a suburban house close to Pasadena, while Natalie’s house was shot in areas near Burbank. They wanted to shoot in a brick building owned by a certain train company, but the company dropped several dozen trains on top of the crew making the ability to live nonexistent. An oil refinery was chosen instead, which was burnt into a nuclear explosion by the Joker afterwards.

SECTION TWO: REVIEW

Where do I freaking begin with this movie? You know what, screw it all, since it’s the subject of every conversation of this movie – and rightfully so – then we’re talking about the narrative. Previously in my Batman Begins review back before The Dark Knight Rises was released, I appreciated the non-traditional narrative structure. This, on the other hand, is really taking that and running with it. Short and sweet explanation, there are two timelines, one runs forward and one runs backwards. They meet up at the end of the movie where the huge twist takes place.*

*The film has been edited into chronological order and is available on the two-disc DVD as a hidden feature.

Our main character, Leonard, played by Guy Pearce, who I think looks like the love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Jericho, has short-term memory loss. Child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Jericho, has short-term memory loss. Short-term memory loss. Loss. Our main character, Leonard, played by Guy Pearce, who I think looks like the love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Jericho, has just informed me that if I keep up this really stupid joke my studio (aka basement) will be nuked.

Between his inability to remember anything since his injury and the travel schedule he is presented,* it’d be very safe to assume he’d be nervous as Hell. You’d also assume if he’d have this condition for so long he’d trained himself not to be nervous and handle the situations accordingly. He does both, sort of. He rarely lets situations that would overwhelm the normal person overwhelm him, knowing that if he did not practice that resistance he would be constantly nervous. You often wonder if he’d really be that calm. But you can also tell by his stony facial expressions, his darting eye movements, and his crackling tone of voice that he is EXTREMELY nervous. It’s an extremely convincing performance and is only helped by the narrative structure.

*That was the absolute worst way I could have worded that

Most good movies with main or side characters that have “mental conditions” give us what I call the “parent perspective.” The parent perspective means that we sympathize with the main character, and I use sympathy in this context as feeling sorrow over one’s pain without fully understanding it. What I would like to call the “personal perspective” is where the movie has you emphasizing with the main character’s conditions, as in fully understanding their pain. In most cases you’d probably only be able to achieve this by showing the movie to somebody who shares that condition…one notable exception is here.

This movie gives us the personal perspective through the backwards/forwards/parallel narrative structure. See, the backwards and forwards timelines are spliced together, in other words the beginning and end half of the story is mixed. The end half of the story is chopped up into sequences that are reversed in order. To add to all this, the beginning sequence (end of the story) is literally backwards in motion. First time watching, it proves to be one of the trippiest things I’ve seen in movies. Yellow Submarine, eat your heart out.

With all this confusion making the normal beginning-middle-end sequence of events in stories look like child's play, putting these events together is designed to be challenge – and has proved to be an extreme challenge to most viewers. The effect being you literally feel like you have the short term memory loss he has. It's also nice that the movie never tells you to feel his condition or makes it obvious, so you’re subconsciously in this mood while not consciously thinking it. If you’ve let yourself fully immerse into the picture you’ll find yourself half thinking you ARE Leonard.* And when the TWIST comes at the end…hot damn, does that pay off.

*Or maybe I'm just nuts.

If you're expecting an aesthetically or energetically Nolan style flick, you might be slightly disappointed. It doesn’t feature any of the cinematography Nolan flicks are known for, mostly because none of this happens on a physically epic scale in size or motion. The sets are really nothing to note, there’s not much artistic play with the colors or the physical emotion of the setting, sure there’s probably quite a bit of symbolism but none of the lighting tricks of Batman Begins or atmosphere of The Prestige. Aside from Leonard I’m not a fan of most of the other characters, Teddy is kind of shoe-horning it if you ask me and Natalie is slightly undefined. And after that there’s maybe one other important actor.

But none of that is really what the movie is about. It’s all, and I mean all about Leonard’s confused journey through his life, his condition and the invisible damage that it has caused him. In that Memento Mori succeeds. Extremely. Like, it succeeds beyond 90%+ of other movies. If nothing else you can tell that the Nolans are highly skilled writers and the ironically named Dodd Dorn is an even better editor.  Over a year ago I crowned The Prestige with this title, half a year ago I crowned Batman Begins with this title, and now I am glad to give Memento a solid 5/5.

SECTION THREE: RELEASE

In March of 2000, Jennifer and Susan Todd attempted to get approval from an American distributor time and time again, finally coming to NewMarket but firstly approaching the head of Miramax. Most distributors loved the picture and praised Nolan’s power as a filmmaker, but turned it down time and time again saying that it would be too confusing for a mass audience. Finally, when Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Contagion) saw the film and heard it was not being widely distributed, he championed the film at many public events, and after a very long time Newmarket finally picked the film up, as I had documented before.

On September fifth of the year 2000, Memento Mori was released at the Venice Film Festival. It received a standing ovation from critics and generated incredible discussion. It went on to play at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Deauville American Film Festival, where it gained more notoriety, to the point where it played at nearly every major festival including Sundance. The incredible word of mouth lead to the film finding enough foreign distributors to have it debut in twenty different countries at wide premiere on March the sixteenth of 2001.

After the first few weeks, Memento reached a $25 Million box office gross and a distribution of 500 American theaters. It was a huge surprise to everybody who had doubted its success, so much that Miramax attempted to buy the film from Newmarket during release. The film finished its run with $39,723,096 ($51,480,954.15) while never reaching higher than eighth position in weekend gross. It had a long and steady run instead of bursting onto the scene in the first four weeks but then immediately dropping off the face of the Earth like most blockbusters.

The film now holds a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. James Berdaneli called it the greatest film of the year and put it at #63 on all-time greatest films. He called it "[an] endlessly fascinating, wonderfully open-ended motion picture [that] will be remembered by many who see it as one of the best films of the year. [W]hat really distinguishes this film is its brilliant, innovative structure.” In praising Guy Peace, James said he gives an "astounding...tight, and thoroughly convincing performance.” In 2009, Berdardinelli chose the film as #3 of the best of the entire decade, only passed by Requiem for a Dream and Lord of the Rings.

William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Memento a "delicious one-time treat", and emphasizes that director Christopher Nolan "not only makes Memento work as a non-linear puzzle film, but as a tense, atmospheric thriller.” Rob Blackwelder said that "[Christopher] Nolan has a crackerjack command over the intricacies of this story. He makes every single element of the film a clue to the larger picture...as the story edges back toward the origins of [Leonard's] quest".

Many medical scientists have cited this film as one of the most realistic depictions of “anterograde amnesia” in media. Christof Koch of Caltech and Esther M. Sternberg at the National Institute of Mental Health were notable in praising the film this way, with saying it was "the most accurate portrayal of the different memory systems in the popular media," and "close to a perfect exploration of the neurobiology of memory. This thought-provoking thriller is the kind of movie that keeps reverberating in the viewer's mind, and each iteration makes one examine preconceived notions in a different light. Memento is a movie for anyone interested in the workings of memory and, indeed, in what it is that makes our own reality."

Sallie Baxendale wrote a book called Memories Aren't Made of this: Amnesia at the Movies. "The overwhelming majority of amnesic characters in films bear little relation to any neurological or psychiatric realities of memory loss... Apparently inspired partly by the neuropsychological studies of the famous patient HM (who developed severe anterograde memory impairment after neurosurgery to control his epileptic seizures) and the temporal lobe amnesic syndrome, [Memento] documents the difficulties faced by Leonard, who develops a severe anterograde amnesia after an attack in which his wife is killed. Unlike in most films in this genre, this amnesic character retains his identity, has little retrograde amnesia, and shows several of the severe everyday memory difficulties associated with the disorder. The fragmented, almost mosaic quality to the sequence of scenes in the film also reflects the 'perpetual present' nature of the syndrome."

Memento was a very successful motion picture and jump started Nolan’s career as a credible filmmaker. It would only take a few years before he would be crowned a legend.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: I'm voting for Dukakis.

Ladyhawke (1985)

Great God of Bacon what the Hell are you smoking and can I have some?

So....The Great God of Bacon was allaike "Dude Ladyhawke" and I'm like "No, no, Goodfellas" and he's like "No, no Goodfellas, Goodfellas are Badfellas.*" And I'm like "Well since I, Da Ca$hman I'm like The Rock you see so fine I kill Goodfellas and you get Ladyhawke." And he's like "alright, LEZZDOET!" So, we had The Great God of Bacon, makin' his way down da slope, through the land, into the bottomless pit! And after he all dune with 'dat, he waz allaike..."DUDE. I CANNOT BREATHE. WHY?!?!???!" E continue to like, shake da baby; and we were arrested for child abuse. Butdazzawholenotherstory.

*He actually loves Goodfellas.

So 'den I was like, "NETFLIX! ACTIVATE!" And Netflix was like "YOU TELL ME JUMP AND I EAT YO FACE!" So 'den I got me some Netflix in da club, and I waz like "BLU-BER-RAY! ACTIVE!" And it didn't respond 'cuz no Blu-Ber-Ray ever been talkin' nun ah dat jive man. So 'den I shoved the disc down iz throat and I waz allaike "LADYHAWKE! ACTIVATE!" 'Den I waz allaike "DON'T ACTIVATE! I BE GOIN' DO DAH FRIDGE AND GETTIN' SOMMAH DAT SECRET SAUCE!" And by secret sauce Da Ca$hman means Mtn. Dew. Butdazzawholenotherstory. So 'den I flipped my shit and started the movie.

So 'den der waz this guy who knew this guy in a prison and he waz allaike "I FREE BOY! MOTHER EARTH JUST GAVE BIRTH TO ME MOTHERFUCKERS!" And den Lucy from I Love Lucifer was allaike "BITCH YOU AIN'T GETTIN' OUTTA HERE WIT' NO WATAH BUFFALO CHEESE! EVERYBODY WAZZA MUDDAH-FUCKIN' WATER BUFFALO AND YOU AIN'T GOT NONE!" And den Da Boy waz allaike "Bitch I'm a Christian version of Tarzan!" And 'den the villain at the end of AssCrap Deus waz allaike "BITCH YOU AIN'T JESUS GET DA FUCK OFF MY PROPERTY!" So now you gotta think Da Boy is in a pretty shitty situation having a water buffalo and a video game boss chasing after him.

So 'den he steals Herbert Hoover's briefcase before killing everybody in the sky. 'Den he runs a lot, and he talks a lot, and he runs a lot, and alladah sudden my mind start trailin 2 dat EXERCISE RESPORATION CORPORATION. And Imma start hinkin;' "well, ya know man, datz worse name-droppin' 'den da droppin' in 'dem Lord ov da Ringz man!" So we got summah 'dem Bromothyml Blue! And we were like "Broski, iz Fist Pumpin' Time!" So were were allaike fist pumpin' 'till 'dem cowz 'dey comin' home man! But then they trample us and we all been dyin' mahn. Sugz.

So 'dey walk and 'dey talk and 'dey occasionally run inna summah 'dem talkin' threes when alladuh sudden a hawk be gettin' shot by an arrow. 'Dis is where Hawkeye was invented. So 'den da werewolf (yeah I don't make it any less confusing) comes around and like "BITCH YOU DON'T GET THIS FUCKING HAWK HAPPY YOU GOAN BE DINNAH!" And Da Boy is allaike "whyyyyy..." And da werewolf is allaike "You wanna be motherfucking dinner?" And Da Boy waz allaike "no, no, dinner does not sound good right now. Lunch maybe." Den da Werewolf waz allaike "OKAY THEN!"

So in da real movie Da Boy iz allaike "YO! MOPE! YOU BEEN GETTIN' Y'ALL BEAUTY SLEEP OR SUMMON?" And da Mope is allaike "nah, man, just FUCKING BIRD I WANNA EAT YOU!" And Da Boy is allaike "No, no you don't wanna eat no bird mahn." And Da Mope is allaike "Fuckin' tits." So 'den dere's tits. Diz iz where I waz allaike "Daaaaaaaa Fuq?" And 'den...fuck if I know. Some shit about David & Goliath. Ladyhawke is a highly produced motion picture featuring flawless colour schemes and a cast of delightfully English people. I provide the production a prestigious rating of a ten score minus a six score and a two-tenths score.

I, Da Utterly Confused ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: WonderfulPeople.

Raging Bull (1980)

I was blind as a Rhino(Klox) but now I see.

DE NIRO’S DISCOVERY

On the set of The Godfather Part II, Robert De Niro apparently had extra time on his hands and had taken to reading the autobiography of Jake LaMotta, entitled Raging Bull: My Story. He had become disenfranchised with the writing style, but would not get the person of Jake off his mind. Eventually the nightmares haunted his head so much that he ran off to the set of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore to deliver it with instructions to Martin Scorsese. Written in blood, it said “I CAN’T HANDLE IT ANYMORE.” Martin originally took this is as a bad thing and turned down the project. He was not swayed with the story, saying 'A boxer? I don't like boxing...Even as a kid, I always thought that boxing was boring... It was something I couldn't, wouldn't grasp…Anything with a ball, no good.' Clearly a very smart director of visual arts.

Martin then swiped the autobiography from Scorsese’s bedroom. He read it, and tossed it, saying "the trouble is the damn thing has been done a hundred times before — a fighter who has trouble with his brother and his wife and the mob is after him.” De Niro found the book in a local dumpster, saved the poor child, and cried himself to sleep. Afterwards he would continue to try to get his baby adopted, showing the project to Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. When they refused the project, De Niro came up with a wonderfully diabolical plan. He poisoned the soda pop at the debut of The Godfather II just enough to harm only Scorsese’s weak heart, which sent him into overdose. This lead to an epiphany that the project must be made. He saw the ring as life and victory as redemption. He knew he could overcome his drug problem by vicariously living through Jake LaMotta.

<---Robert De Niro training with the real Jake LaMotta

Scorsese began experimenting by filming 8mm color footage of De Niro in a boxing ring. While Scorsese and De Niro were looking over the footage, two friends of Robert came into the room. Michael Chapman (The Godfather, Jaws) and Michael Powell would make note that the boxing gloves on De Niro’s hands were incorrect with the times. They were bright red in the footage, but in the 1960s would most likely be maroon, oxblood or even black. Instead of trying to find new boxing gloves, Scorsese turned to using black and white film to create a feeling of those times…to some degree. Scorsese would then see two boxing matches at Madison Square Garden to pick up on important details, mostly regarding blood.

Once word got around at how important this project was eventually going to be, Mardik Martin, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler came running back begging for parts in the film. Mardik was first selected to write the screenplay. He decided to base the story off of a time in the 30’s and 40’s where Boxing was referred to as The Dark Prince of sports. Scorsese was unimpressed, and sent United Artists in immediately to attempt to kill him. After this was unsuccessful, Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) was brought in to rewrite the film. Schrader added masturbation, uncooked meat, and brothers. Enough said.

De Niro, Scorsese, Schrader, Steven Bach and David Field all met up in a dark alleyway and loved the script, thinking it was a gigantic improvement. But they knew it would most likely receive an X-Rating and have an undetectable audience. Schrader, Bach and Field pulled a lever that opened a trap door in the alleyway which sent De Niro and Scorsese onto an abandoned island with the script. They spent two and a half weeks trying to get the Hell outta dodge and maybe fix up the script a little bit.

They added affairs and broken televisions, rewrote the climax, and removed the dads and criminals. They returned to United Artists to discuss the movie with their coworkers and talk about why the Hell they were left on Saint Martin Island for so long. They ended up striking a deal where De Niro and Scorsese were to receive their credit while Scharder, Bach and Field would not be pressed chargers. However the contract was inverted when written and De Niro and Scorsese were not given credit for their work on the third draft of the script.

With little exception, Scorsese is known for casting actors/actresses who are new to the profession. Robert De Niro broke this a little bit by slating himself to play Jake LaMotta, but afterwards helped Scorsese find obscure actors intensely. By sitting on the couch. He watched a low budget film called The Death Collector featuring a struggling actor from New Jersey playing a career criminal. They approached the New Jersey blue collar worker named Joe Pesci, and he accepted as quickly as financially possible.

When Joe Pesci got there, he was welcomed with open arms, and took this opportunity to get one of his friends into the movie. He recommended Cathy Moriarty to play the role of Vicky, whom he met at a New Jersey disco. Scorsese and De Niro approved after seeing her “physical maturity” and hearing her “husky voice.” (Ehem.) They had trouble getting her into the movie, but after showing “pictures,” they were successful in persuading the Screen Actor’s Guild. Joe Pesci would also try to get his old friend, Frank Vincent, into the movie, which was also successful. Basically, politics.

It should be noted De Niro went to the Bronx to practice his accent for a few weeks and stumbled across LaMotta and his ex-wife, Vicky. Vicky would talk about her past experiences with Jake and show some old home movies, which became inspiration for film scenes. Jake, on the other hand, had become a professional trainer and made De Niro one of the greatest boxers of all time in a matter of two and a half weeks. Let us take a moment of silence for De Niro’s lost sanity.

In Los Angeles, on April 16th, 1979, principal photography began on Raging Bull. They rented the Olympic Auditorium and covered the windows with giant black duvetyne curtains to create an artificial smoke effect. Scorsese did not approve of filming fight scenes from an audience perspective and instead created point of view shots where the cameraman would replace the fighter whom we would see his point of view. The punches were treated like dance moves in the sense that they were learned out of a book and practiced on a dummy before being done purely off of choreography.

They finished filming in the boxing ring on May 7th and went to Stage Three of Culver City Studio to film the movie until the middle of June. After this, production “continued” with everybody receiving full pay, not working, for FOUR MONTHS. The reason? So De Niro could go on a giant eating binge around the world. Damn I wish I was him. Actually, fuck it, at this point I’d want to be anybody on the set of this movie right now. De Niro gained a massive 70 pounds (maybe I don’t want this no more) so he could film scenes with a fatter version of LaMotta. Long in the short of it is, this fucked him up hard.

During the four month binge De Niro went under, editing began, and then production began again, and then when production wrapped up, editing began again, and then when editing ended…you get the idea. Thelma Schoonmaker, who would go on to work on many of Scorsese’s other projects, would edit this film. Her and Scorsese would be co-editors, making decisions like having the two flashbacks bookend the film, as well as having a very delicate sound mix by Frank Warner. Scorsese wanted to make each object, action and word sound unique, which turned out to be insanely, impossibly, unimaginably difficult. There was an issue of balancing the quality of the scenes between boxing and dialogue – whereas boxing was shot with Dolby audio technologies.

Raging Bull went through a test screening with the cast, crew, and execs at United Artists. Andy Albeck cited Scorsese as a “true artist.” After distribution problems, the film was released on December 19th, 1980.

SCORSESE’S LEGACY BEGINS

First thing anybody is going to notice about this movie is that the actors talk exactly like real people. That is, real angry people. This movie, to say the absolute least, has curse words. This movie, to be more accurate, has Scarface level swearing. Good luck finding a line without “cocksucker” “fucker” or “faggot.” It ain’t just that either, it’s absolutely every word in the book. What’s really awesome is how you get to see the average person through fucking in once every other sentence, but then when people get pissed the curse words come out so hard George Carlin might get uncomfortable.

There’s so much sincerity and passion in the actors, I don’t feel like I’m watching actors, I feel like I’m watching real people. Especially the breakdowns. Even the greatest movies in history typically suck at showing somebody when they’re at their most vunerable. This movie does it perfectly. When Jake, or somebody else, gets hopelessly angry, I can see myself right there. (Don’t know what that says about me.) Robert De Niro’s Bronx accent is so interesting yet so realistic that I think I got the damn thing stuck in my head still. Bottom line, end of story, the actors are directed to be, written to be, and independently act in a way that makes them humans, not characters.

Michael Chapman, best damn choice, the cinematography in this movie is awesome. The way they play with slow motion perfectly captures the adrenaline of the fight; you become emotionally invested in it like you would with an important fight with your favorite fighter in real life. The way the camera angles into areas of focus and provides the quick cuts does the same. During the last fight, there’s some really amazing experimental camerawork which I won’t spoil but damn you could write a paper on that one little clip. There’s never a moment where you don’t feel like the camera isn’t putting you in the most important spot to feel the emotion, and all the symbolic implications of where things are in shots could not possibly be picked up on a first viewing.

The use of black and white is a really interesting choice. The dates make perfect sense, 1940-1964. The boxing scenes are heavily elevated by the color scheme, blurring the line between past and present to create a wider range of emotions. But I feel like some of the other scenes, like ones in LaMotta’s house are not really assisted by black and white. It’s no detriment, it doesn’t bug me, but I just don’t see a point for it in that scene. This isn’t Young Frankenstein or The Artist, where it’s a tribute to things that were entirely black and white. If the whole movie was boxing matches then maybe you could make a case for this, but people see real life in color. Even if it’s 1942. It gets even more jarring when you see colored footage of the real LaMotta inter-spliced with the black and white footage in a montage.*

*Seems like there’s some sort of montage in every boxing movie.

The arc of Jake LaMotta is perfectly drawn. He starts out as this jerkoff in general, slowly evolves into a better person as he starts to win, and then once he has the “fixed” match, he starts to get a whiff of things that he’s making up in his head and he becomes a blind, raging monster with the best intentions. To the point where he gets locked up. Then he comes out, a somewhat decent guy, best he’s ever been, with absolutely nobody to respect him and nothing to his name. And then before you know it, it’s over. Just like that. Bheema wants more. How could they just pull the plug like that? That’s when you know it’s good, when you’re sad it ended.

Continuing on the arc thing, it’s really interesting not just seeing how the fights correlate to life from Jake’s perspective, but from the opponent’s perspective. When life is back and forth, his fights are back and forth. When life turns out to be great – or at least on the surface – his fights are great. On the surface. When he discovers it’s all shit, the “fixed” fight happens, and then he starts going down farther and farther. To the point where he’s punching a brick wall in the jail cell. All the wanting, all the desire, and nobody who would be willing to share the ring with him. Nobody who would be willing to share life with him.

Imma put the final say on Jake LaMotta as a character. He is an awful person, yes. And the audience can see this in excess during the non-boxing scenes. And then the craziest thing happens. During the boxing scenes, you’re cheering for the son of a bitch. You get emotionally devastated when he doesn’t win; you get hyped when he is beating the shit out of his opponents. It’s a sign that the character was so well written that the audience knows him so well that it doesn’t matter how good of a person the other guy is, he’s gotten no focus. We understand Jake and we cheer for Jake. We’ve seen this in other movies, but, it’s perfect here because there’s…well, I’ll just say it’s technically impossible for the good guy to win.

"Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see." – John 9:25

If nothing else, the most important thing to take from this movie is the message. We are witnessing a man who is legitimately good somewhere inside, similar to Scarface. But also like Scarface, he has been blinded by what’s not important, and continuously attempts to hide his insecurities. He has become a man who can only see himself, and nothing, and in reality he doesn’t even see himself. He sees this imaginary vision of himself and all the other people and imposes these emotions upon them, thus creating his own selfish nonexistent universe where only he can operate. By the time he’s awake, it’s too late. His life is dead. He is a walking body, filled with blood, bones, and regret.

5.7/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time on The Request-A-Thon 2: Girly Eagle

The Jerk (1979)

"I'm in the phone book! Stuff's gonna start happening to me!" - Steve Martin

"Weird stuff, specifically." - Da Ca$hman

"[Exactly why I told you to see this.]" - The Midnite Slammer

[UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS AHEAD]

Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, I would just like to say I do not endorse or affiliate myself with any of the actions taken by the protagonist of previously mentioned motion picture and I highly advise avoiding this man's path to fame and fortune. Certainly there should be appropriate measures to be taken in this Jerk's quest, such as being adopted by a poor black family when he was a teeny baby. Especially the part where he believes that he, himself, is black. But the part about being completely out of synch with the music this family just so happens to play, not the matzo.

Don't name your dog "Shithead." Or "Life Saver" for that matter. The former will end up with your dog hating you for life. The latter will lead you to setting an apartment complex on fire. Don't ever take a gas station job from a really nice Jewish stereotype. Especially if it's for $1.10 a week. And don't calculate that with inflation, making it $3.35 a week. If you do happen to take that job, make sure you didn't just take it so you could take a piss. Also make sure you don't get stuck living in the closet full of useless crap. And on the weird odd chance that you do, I highly advise against promising anybody a postcard.

Now, if you've made this many mistakes already, I would be very cautious the day that your name ends up in the phone book. Because some random jackass is going to kill you for being some random jackass. If you take the proper steps of driving off in a car without wheels, his only successes will be in the murders of cans. Do not drive your car into a circus though, for you will be employed to guess people's weight and give away random shit. Sure you'll make a profit, but it isn't worth the boredom. And if we've honestly made it so Goddamn far that you're here, you might as well just take the flaming whore who has a tattoo of every man in the world on her ass.

And you might as well save that little kid wearing a "BULLSHIT" T-Shirt on the toy trains, and you might as well ask out her babysitter. But definintely cover your tracks, because that flaming hoe is going to bust your ass and you are going to be sorry. The entire trailer truck might explode but she'll probably just end up flat on your face while you and the babysitter are playing the horn on the beach and not kissing so hard it becomes more eventful than the actual kissing that takes place in the future. Last but not least, do not kill the babysitter by showing her your "special purpose."

You've come this far? Really? You stupid Jerk. You ought to throw away that letter telling you that she's left you, not to mention that it's been smudged up by your dog named Shithead. Then you ought to run naked in the neighborhood, using Shithead and some other dog as cover for your glorious areas. You probably gonna go abandoning your dog, only to take him back, when he clearly doesn't love you. And I don't know what you did after that, but I know that you probably went to some giant business meeting and cashed in on some invention you didn't even know you invented. A quarter of a million dollars, are you serious? You're that rich from that accident?

Alright, you've made it this far. You are clearly one helluva stupid Jerk. But you can still have hope. Do not spend all that money on a ton of stuff, like paintings of naked women, three part giant swimming pools, disco rooms with your own dancers, statues, 24-piece dining room table, unnecessary lessons, unavoidable spoilers, and numerous other things that will cause numerous first world problem. Here is one piece of good advice, though: If you do go through with this, and some idiots mention "keeping out the n1663rs," beat the everlasting shit out of them. Go Bruce Lee on their white asses. Just don't kick any of them in the balls, because they may have what was titled in a certain AC/DC song. That wouldn't be good.

By now you're a complete jerk. You made everybody cockeyed, you lost your girl, you've ruined the cat juggling industry, and lost your pants at that. You're a bum with a thermometer, lying around having fun with a bottle of booze. You're even narrating to yourself. You see why this is a bad idea? You see why you shouldn't do any of this weird crap? It's not a good idea. Don't do anything that Steve Martin just did. Instead, you should do like Da Ca$hman or The Midnite Slammer. Watch The Jerk. It's pretty funny. I ought to give it 3.5/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, and I ought to be singing off.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Something interesting about the director's last name...

Note: shorter review. Under 1000 words.

INTRO

Andrew Lloyd Weber. He’s a bit of a big deal. He’s a British play composer. He did…some pretty important stageplays. Cats, for example. The Phantom of the Opera in 1986. The Wizard of Oz in 2011. His current net worth is about…700 Million pounds. Or a little over 1.08 Billion dollars. He did a little album. It’s called Jesus Christ Superstar.  Had Ian Gillian singing on it. Yeah. That’s the guy from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. It told the story of Jesus Christ in his last week before the crucifixion. It doesn’t mention the resurrection, and focuses mostly on Christ, Judas and Mary, to the point where it was focusing harder than the actual Bible.

It quickly got turned into a musical. The first official performance was on July 11th, 1971, in front of 13,000 people. 13,000 people I said. That’s pretty legit for a goddamn stageplay. It opened on Broadway on October the 12th of that same year. It did legit business. Got pretty damn big. So one of the singers on the album, namely Barry Dennen, said to himself “this shit needs to be a movie.” So he approached a guy named…I’m not fucking making this up…Norman Jewison, who had recently made a motion picture version of Fiddler on the Roof.

·         Norman listened the album, and then was all like, “sure man, this is good shit.” Norman gathered a bunch of actors from the original Broadway play, such as Ted Neely and Carl Anderson as the leads, Yvonne Elliman and Bob Bingham. Jewison also wanted to bring in Ian Gillian, but he was like “dude, I’m in Deep Purple, I’m pretty alright off. Besides, the fans love me.” A few months later, Norman got his crew complete. They shipped themselves over to Israel and other various, undisclosed, uncharted Middle Eastern territories. This was all a big cover-up, just so you know. Oil and Satanism.

·         So that’s your quick little intro. Basically, Jesus Christ, classic heavy metal, and conspiracy theories. Pretty damn good mix in my opinion. I’m totally down with all three of those.

·         …Why do I get the feeling that intro does nothing to prepare anybody for the movie at all?

·         JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

·         Ladies and Gentlemen this is the portion of the broadcast where our resident Ca$hman begins to list off all the things “this movie has.” Continue to enjoy this pretentiously wonderful product. – Skim “Bob” Joe

·         (Ca$hman grabs scroll that rolls down the entire auditorium’s hallways.) In order of appearance: This movie contains: These things: Wicked architecture. UFO sounds.* Geckos. Rock music. Orchestral music. Hip-hop music that I didn’t even know existed in 1973. Camels. Hippies. Judas Iscariot. Jesus H. Christ. Attractive women. Probably attractive men though I really wouldn’t be able to tell. Romans. Goats. Asses. And most importantly, the word: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!

      *Granted there are no actual UFOs

·         I think you can tell I like the music. But umm….we never really…get a break from it. It’s like, musical number, twenty seconds of quiet, a musical number, twenty seconds of quiet, rinse and repeat. Most musicals have talking, guys. You don’t have an exhibition of all the greatest voices in rock and roll history either. Most of the background vocals and crowd singing is pretty legit, but Ted Neely as Jesus has a voice that could only be produced as the holy love child of Geddy Lee and Michael Jackson. Which means that Geddy Lee is God, and Michael Jackson cheated on her husband. Judas also sounds like somebody lodged autotune into his lungs and it’s still off key.

·         Umm…continuing my list of things this movie has: Amazing hats. Mirrors. Homeless gypsy lame people person things…Prostitutes. Tanks. Airplanes. (Yeah those last two confused the Hell out of me.) Sheep. Pitchforks. Cameraless paparazzi. Dogs. Sunglasses. Transvestites. And…well, by the end I had just gotten used to all the out of place modern lingo and clothing….and a lot of really creepy edits with the camera and the audio. Probably edits that weren’t even intended to be creepy.

·         Surprisingly enough, the script really doesn’t hold your hand as much as I’d expect a constant musical to. It starts off right in the middle of the story, implying that you’re already familiar with the story as it is told commonly. It also really doesn’t blatantly tell you a single thing, but maybe that’s just me being lazy and listening to the music and only half the time listening to what they’re saying. Bottom line, the plot or storyline in this movie really isn’t the focal point and I guess I should have expected that more than I actually did.

·         In short, Jesus Christ Superstar….is an interesting film. I mean, if what you’re looking for in a musical is strictly the music you should be highly pleased with this movie. Lots of different styles implemented and a lot of talented people working on it. Like I said, most of the voices are really good but our main two leads suffer some major problems in terms of singing. Our main lead also suffers in terms of voice acting and even some facial expressions. The movie is not going to help you follow the story because A.) Everybody knows this story, B.) That’s not the whole entire point. The point is the music and a few moral suggestions. Also, there’s a lot of crazy shit going on. That’s good enough to make me recommend it. I think it’s one of those things where you won’t lead a worse life if you don’t see the movie, but for some reason everybody ends up seeing it…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Overall, I think a 3.65/5 + The Kickass Seal of Approval should accurately exhibit its merits.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

The final Sean Connery Bond.

THE LIVING OCTOPUSSY

The entirety of the James Bond franchise had been thought to be published by the middle of the year 1965. But anybody accustomed to be mega-franchises of the 21st century should know better. Jonathon Cape wasn’t about to let the gold mine named 007 stay sleeping. He began to work with Gildrose Productions - who later attained the rights to all of Fleming’s books - to publish two – which became four – short stories by Ian Fleming. They were titled Octopussy and The Living Daylights.

The first story, Octopussy, was written quickly and right before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The story is told in the same fashion as Quantum of Solace, where Bond is having flashbacks of the events rather than having him as the main character of action. Fleming had remained familiar in his own territory for this entry, speak of things such as tropical fish, hidden gold, wartime exploits and other things extremely fantastical. Fleming’s 30 AU Unit from World War II was also mentioned briefly.

The second story, The Living Daylights, was originally titled “Trigger Finger” and sometimes has been referred to as “Berlin Escape.” For research into this project, Fleming contacted E.K. Le Mesurier, secretary of the National Rifle Association at Bisley for help with exactly what had plagued From Russia with Love. Despite being in the military, Ian Fleming apparently knew jackshit about guns. He got his information on shotguns rather quickly. A scene in which no man’s land must be crossed in the noise of an orchestra was inspired by an escape from Coldtiz POW camp which was done similarly.

It helped that Fleming knew Douglas Bader, the conducter of Coldtiz. They were golfing buddies. The assassin in the story, named Trigger, had been inspired by Amaryllis Fleming, Ian’s half-sister. She was a concert cellist with blonde hair. The actual person is mentioned in the book in a passing way. "Of course Suggia had managed to look elegant, as did that girl Amaryllis somebody." After completion, Fleming had offered Graham Sutherland to make cover art, as opposed to his usual Richard Chopping, and paying him only a 1/3rd of Chopping’s wages. That never went anywhere.

The third and fourth stories were named Property of a Lady and 007 in New York. The former was commissioned by The Ivory Hammer for publication. It was published in November of 1963 and posthumously in Playboy. The story had been written in early 1963, and Fleming was so unhappy with the final piece he refused payment from Sotheby's for something he considered so lackluster. This resulted in an uncensored aerial assault from Triple H, most widely known as GOD-UGH (who will beat that sandwich salesman at WrestleMania 29) with sledgehammers falling from the sky.

Way back in 1959 Ian Fleming was commissioned to write a series of articles based on major cities by The Sunday Times. This eventually turned into Thrilling Cities. While touring New York City, Fleming wrote 007 in New York from Bond’s point of view – which wasn’t hard since Fleming essentially was Bond. Originally titling it Reflections in a Carey Cadillac, the story was mostly trivial and contained some odd elements, such as recipes for scrambled eggs created by Max Maxwell, Ivar Bryce’s housekeeper. The story was published in the New York Herald Tribune before being hard published in Octopussy and The Living Daylights.

Octopussy and the Living Daylights was published on June the twenty third of nineteen sixty six by Jonathon Cape at 10s.6d each. The original edition only included the two titular stories, but by the English paperback edition Property of a Lady had been introduced to the volume. Penguin Books would add the last story in 2002. Richard Chopping would do his final artwork for an Ian Fleming book, this time raising his fee once more to three hundred and fifty guineas. A man named Paul Bacon, who worked on book jackets for One Flew Over the Cucco’s Nest, Catch-22 and Rosemary’s Baby did in book illustrations.

Phillip Larkin in The Spectator remarked that he was “not surprised that Fleming preferred to write novels. James Bond, unlike Sherlock Holmes, does not fit snugly into the short story length: there is something grandiose and intercontinental about his adventures that require elbow room and such examples of the form as we have tend to be eccentric or muted. These are no exception." The Times wrote that the book was "slight and predictable, and usual sex and violence yield to a plausible use of ballistics and marine biology.” The Listener thought that "in their fascinated poring on things...remind us that the stuff of the anti-novel needn't necessarily spring from a thought-out aesthetic…it is the mastery of the world that gives Fleming his peculiar literary niche…I admired all the Bond books and I'm sorry there'll be no more. A sad farewell to Fleming.”

This concludes the chronicle of Ian Fleming’s life.

      DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, FOREVER, FOREVER, FOREVER

Though On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was highly successful, it was nothing compared to Dr. No, Goldfinger or even You Only Live Twice. Because of this, the newest incarnation of Broccoli & Sandman Inc. were now willing to do anything to recreate that financial success. Even if it meant the lives of thousands of innocent sea orphans. Thankfully they firstly resorted to a far less drastic approach, in re-hiring Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton. Peter Hunt was kicked out of the director’s chair for this, though he was invited to be the editor. Unfortunately for him, Pete decided not to become a millionaire and work on another project.

Rumors were coming afloat that new developments would be held in the Kevin McClory lawsuit about who actually invented SPECTRE. Eon became afraid to use SPECTRE in their movie and almost backed out of it. Their original idea for a plot was to feature Auric Goldfinger’s twin, looking out for revenge, making it a direct sequel to the 1964 film. This was destroyed when Imposter Broccoli had a dream involving Imposter Howard Hughes. Out of the dream, Imposter Broccoli immediately found Tom Mankiewicz and tied him to a chair unless he worked on the script.

Richard Maibaum was all like “What the fuck guys? There was supposed to be a big boat chase! And it was gonna be on Lake Mead! And…and Blofeld! And Bond!...and…I was supposed to be on a boat!” Then Sandman was allaike “brother, there ain’t no Chinese junkies hangin’ out at Pettie Pie’s boat know what I’m fucking around with yeeeeeeeaaaah keep on rollin’ baby. Ain’t no Roman galleys in this bitch either. We gotta watch our greenbacks like Bond be watchin’ his own back, if ya know what I’m talking about, will you stand up?”

No, but, seriously, you wanna know about the original ending to this movie? There was Bond, alright. And there was Blofeld. And there were armed frogmen. And there were helicopters. And there would have been submarines. And then were would have been weather balloons. And there was supposed to a massive salt mine. And somebody was going to get grinded to death in a salt granulator. But NOOOOOO, stupid salt mine owners, not giving permission to Broccoli & Sandman to film such a massive scene. What do you think this is, capitalism? THIS IS ENGLAND GODDAMIT!

Well, that was about it for the writing portion of the story. As far as casting, you should know by now that George Lazenby was offered a seven film contract but turned it down, resulting in Sean Connery returning one last time. However it should be noted that before bringing back Connery, which would be a difficult task, the producers considered John Gavin (Psycho, Spartacus), Adam West (Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Zorro, BAADASSSSS!, and most important Danananannanananananana Batman) and Michael Gambon (Othello, Sleepy Hollow, Christmas Carol, Harry Potter 4, The Book of Eli) were all considered for the role of James Bond.

John Gavin, we don’t know why he wasn’t considered. Adam West was too busy being Batman, which is a completely justified reason. Michael Gambon turned the role down after telling Broccoli that he would be in terrible shape unless he ate him. United Artists then called up Sandman & Broccoli Inc. and told them that they were growing more and more impatient. They would bring back Sean Connery at any expense, money no object, no holds barred, anything goes, no disqualification, no count outs, you get the idea.

“Oh, money’s no object, then? Alrighty. Give me 1.25 Million pounds.”  - Sean Connery, demanding what would be 20 million pounds in 2013, which is $30,708,000 over here. For one actor. Yeah, United Artists chose an effective button to press. They weren’t done, though. On the slightest chance that Bond might return to the Connery series, they offered to back two indie films of James’s choosing. Instead, Bond asked for an equal amount of cash to help start the Scottish International Education Trust, which would allow Scottish actors to gain funding for projects without having to leave to the English part of the United Kingdom.

The first project born out of the Scottish International Education Trust was called The Offence. It wasn’t a very well-known movie, as to be expected, but got wonderful reviews from critics. The second film meant to be produced under this trust was an adaptation of That Scottish Play, in which only Scottish actors were involved and Connery played the lead role...however another version of That Scottish Play was being produced by Roman Polanski, and they decided that it would not be profitable to pursue the project immediately. I wish it was though. Bond playing Big Mac, that would be epic.

Charles Gray was casted as Blofeld after playing a Bond ally a couple films back…which makes about as much sense as casting the same person who played Winnie the Pooh as Kaa in The Jung---oh you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. Putter Smith, a jazz musician, was invited to play Mr. Kidd in the movie after Harry Sandman saw a live performance of his. Musician Paul Williams was also cast in the movie, but when he couldn’t agree on the paycheck with the producers, Bruce Glover replaced him. Bruce was shocked at being casted, being that Eon wanted a “deformed, Peter Lorre type actor.” Poor dude still hasn’t realized it.

The casting of Tiffany Case included nominations of Raquel Welch (One Million Years B.C., Legally Blonde), Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway (The Four Musketeers, Supergirl, Anonymous Rex.) Jill St. John, who had originally tried out for the smaller role of Plenty O’Toole, was given the lead after Guy Hamilton was impressed with her during screentests. This caused Jill to become the first American Bond girl. Lana Wood (Captain America) was then caused as Plenty following a suggestion by Tom Mankiewicz.

Welch, casting’s finished. Time to start filming. It’s the 5th of April 1971, and we’re in South Africa, and by South Africa I mean the deserts of Las Vegas. We’re finishing on the 13th of August in 1971. Let’s see what we can do. Looks like if we’re going to change locations, we’re either going to be in the United States – specifically Los Angeles or Universal Studio’s backlots – or England – specifically Pinewood Studios, the town of Dover and the city of Southampton. (Maybe the City of Townsville while we’re at it, eh?)

Well, would you look at this. Last minute addition. We’re filming the climax in Oceanside, California. And holy Hell, a tour date in France and a couple in Germany. If you look to your left, you’ll see one of the weirdest pornographies you’ve ever seen in your life, featuring Broccoli and hundreds of the playboy bunnies! Looks like Howard Hughes might even be in on this excrement…I mean excitement!...Wait, this just in. Looks like we’re getting a special news bulletin from Uncle Anus! He says he wants to apologize sincerely for Ca$hman getting Howard Hughes and Hugh Heffner confused! Imma go hang myself now!

Getting the streets empty was a highly violent atrocity that required the cooperation of Howard Hughes, Hugh Heffner, the Las Vegas police, Godzilla, and the Shopkeeper’s Assassins. By the end we saw a catastrophe of innocent murders more intense than Godzilla and King Kong pretending to play Call of Duty! Meanwhile, in other location scouting, we have found The Las Vegas Hilton to be a great double as the “Whyte House.” Since the owner of the Circus Circus Circus Circus was a big fan of the Sean Connery series, he allowed Eon to film and, as thank you, made a cameo in the movie.

At first The Sandman was afraid of the dark, but when he saw that it’s actually brighter in Las Vegas at night then during the day, he was instantly transformed into a vampire. Yeah this is getting pretty epic, folks. James Bond "didn't get any sleep at all. We shot every night[;] I caught all the shows and played golf all day. On the weekend[s] I collapsed – boy, did I collapse. Like a skull with legs." Bond also notes being late for a shoot because he was “collecting his winnings” after playing on the slot machines.

So then there was a gymnasium, and then there was the Elrod House in Palmwood Springs, and that was designed by John Lautner and that became Willard Whyte’s house and then they used the house of Kirk Hammett and I mean Kirk Douglas and then there was the Slumber Mortuary and it was a real sanitarium I mean crematorium you know fuck I just wanna listen to Metallica maybe if I listen to Metallica I can do a goddamn James Bond review right here’s some Metallica for you have some and enjoy it fuckers:

The interior of the Slumber mortuary were built on Pinewood Studios. Ken Adam attempted to imitate the lozenge (I don’t know what that is either) shape of the Vegas crematorium’s stained glass window in its nave. (Nope, don’t know that one either.)…you know looking back that’s such an unnecessary fucking detail. Ken Adam visited a ton of actual funeral homes in Vegas while preparing the set, which would explain the gaudy design, such as tasteless Art Deco and you know what fuck it this is also an unnecessarily specific detail we’re moving on.

Since there were going to be an asston of explosions, Eon got in their time machine I donated to them and transported Michael Bay back to 1971. He then was transported back to the 1900’s and held a gun up to Henry Ford’s head, and demanded that any filmmakers be able to nuke your damn stores whenever they damn please. Thanks to this chain of events, any aspiring filmmaker can nuke Ford Motor Companies. You’re fucking welcome. Eon also made a remake of the space buggy, which was inspired by the real life thing but made to be way more retraded.

Oh hey, it’s August the 13th. A Friday no less. No, seriously. Go look it up on Google Images. It’s sketch. We’re about wrapped up with filming, how’s the music going, Mr. Dr. Prof. John Barry?...Well, appears he’s having the time of his life. Right until….now. When Shirly Bassey comes in the room. Yeah, you remember her? Probably not. Your mind is merciful on you. But I remember her. She did the theme song for GOLDFINGER. FUCK THAT THEME SONG. Harry Sandman hated the song and threw the whiny bitch off a fucking cliff, and good for him too. Fuck the Goldfinger theme song.

But fuck, it’s Broccoli. He wants the theme song in. And apparently Broccoli’s been through digestive systems and back, so he knows exactly what to threaten Mr. Sandman with. Sandman later interrogated John Barry about the lyrics of the song and whether or not they were as subtly sexualized as a Disney movie starring Spongebob. After much inappropriate interrogation, John Barry admitted that he told Shirly Bassey to think of a penis while she was singing the song. For all we know she was thinking of a Limp Bizkit.

Well now. It’s already the 14th of December in 1971. Time for one of the last huge hits of the year to come out. Diamonds are Forever. Bring it on.

JAMES BOND as SEAN CONNERY 007

Well, I named the opinionated section after him, I might as well start by talking about him. As to be expected with an actor who’s highly disenfranchised with these movies and was pretty much brought onto the project via bribery, his mood is highly impatient, angry and rarely but noticeably abusive. Not to mention rather violent, like a pyromaniac. We’re not talking about a pyromaniac who blows up the Empire State Building in a movie, we’re talking about a pyromaniac who blows up a retirement home, barely understanding who is the residence of that home. Yet…oddly enough, this seems to come less from Bond’s acting and more from how the Sean Connery character is written.

It’s all about what he says and what he does. As far as James Bond’s acting, he’s actually really cool and suave, seeming to attempt to bring out the fullest of the classic Bond from five-nine years ago in the midst of the mood changes that Richard Maibaum has offered him. If you wanna talk about the acting, we can start talking about the two most important Bond girls featured in this film. I’ve made a point to note them when I discussed casting. Jill St. John is playing the main Sean girl, Tiffany Case. In the first half of her performance, she actually does a pretty good job. A mix of impatience and acceptance. A new best friend who puts up with no bullshit. Oh, and she’s fucking HOT AS HELL.* God fucking dammit. Just go to fucking Google fucking Images and you’ll fucking see what I fucking mean. Fucking.

*This is the first time in American history that “as Hell”  has been attached to anything that actually makes sense. The sentence following immediately, however, makes no fucking sense.

…But in the second half of her performance she becomes really shitty. It seems the more she falls for Bond, the more she turns into a ditzy stereotype who frankly could go hang herself with a rope made of corn flakes.*But in no scene is Jill St. John nearly as bad as Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole. Though her wonderfully exhibited breasts fully satisfy the purpose of her given name, her performance reminds me of a porn star pretending to act like a six year old.* The way she emphasis her words, states the obvious with no interesting diction, her tone of voice…you expect her to be a really bad faker and in line with Blofeld or something…but NOPE. Not that I caught anyways.

*Yeah he’s into some really weird shit. – Mr. Twister. Both asterisks.

Traditionally, in talking about the characters/actors, I talk about Sean, the Sean girls, and the Sean villain. Talking about the Sean villain is going to be…an interesting subject. Charles Gray. That motherfucker. He looks more like the twin brother of William Shatner then he does a mix of Howie Mendel, David Draimen, Jean-Luc Picard and Scar from Lion King. When I first saw Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, I was weirded out by mildly impressed. After seeing Telly Savales as Blofeld, I was to be completely satisfied with Donald’s look. And now I’m begging for a return. Not only in appearance, but in voice.

Not only that, but Charles Gray is just…bland as all Hell. His facial expressions are various, yes, but highly muted. He looks stoned on stage. Or maybe I’m just transcending my own exhaustion from the pacing of the movie to Charles, but we’ll talk about the script in a very short amount of time. His voice is completely forgettable. The best I can remember 20 minutes after watching this film is that he sounded satisfyingly British. But no, nothing else. No sense of menace from his voice. No sense of plotting. No soullessness. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Noodle.

Here’s what I find to be the biggest problem with Blofeld in this movie, and now it’s time that I warn you *SPOILERS ALERT.* (If you wish to avoid spoilers, continue to: paragraph 4, assuming this is paragraph 1.) In a montage under ten minutes, Sean Connery embarks on a mission to finally end Blofeld and get his sweet revenge from the last movie. And he does this. He actually kills Blofeld….sort of kind of. Anybody with half a brain doesn’t buy that Blofeld is actually dead, even in 1971, when maybe not all of the clichés had been fully established. Blofeld returns later in the movie, showing that he had “two doubles” and one still remains, which ties Connery into Blofeld’s trap which apparently involves mammal cloning.

I have two things to say about this. First are the pacing problems. Personally, I felt that the ending to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the most emotional piece in a Bond film thus far, despite the fact that the preceding feature was mediocre. So, I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but after that I was pumped. I wanted to see Bond beat the ever loving shit out of that fucking bastard. And he does…but in the first ten minutes. Taking away the climatic buildup was a huge let down. The lower half of us that actually believed he was dead spent the rest of the movie hopefully disappointed, and the smarter half practically spoiled for the big plot twist. Yeah. That makes the movie considerably slower.

…But there’s something else I wanna talk about in regards to Blofeld. You have to have seen the movie to know what I’m talking about here. In the opening montage, we see Blofeld creating look-alikes of himself. We’re supposed to presume that these are organic look-alikes and that they use external machinery to imitate other people’s voices. But…what if that’s not the case at all? What if those look-alikes are cyborgs, using internal machinery to imitate other people’s voices, and Blofeld doesn’t actually possess that power? What if Blofeld actually was killed at the beginning? What if he was just so nuts and so sad for himself that he meant to carry out his goals by any means necessary…even by his own death? What if he cared less about himself, but more about what people thought about him?...He probably didn’t have any self-respect, and inside only wanted to make an impact on the world, positive or negative, because he would feel sorry for uselessness. He was truly sadistically unselfish. Think about that kiddos.

*SPOILERS OVER.*

Onto other things. The action scenes are pretty legit. They’ve always been very well choreographed in these movies, but this one is one of the best examples thus far of how classic Bond fights feel more realistic than flashy. Not that this movie is holeless. (Datz a new werd becauz I said so). The music is alright. It’s not noticeably bad at any points, but only two moments are really memorable. The first is the remix of Connery theme, and the other is the opening theme, which is WAAAY better than I expected, considering the Goldfinger music was a damn nightmare.

I really enjoyed Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, for some reason. They had plenty of very blatant implications that they were a gay couple, and placing a gay couple as the henchmen of a very popular movie is not going to be highly progressive. But they do it without making them obnoxious stereotypes, and the implications are super rare and far spread apart. It’s more about their chemistry together as partners, their sadistic cunning and their refined taste. They’re damn good Sean Connery villains, even if in a supporting role.

The location is kind of a mixed bag. It explores Las Vegas decently, but not anywhere NEAR what should be expected for a Bond film. We should be Las Vegas being exploited for all its fucking worth, and that’s a damn lot. All the money! All the gambling! All the attractions! All the sexy ladies! True we get more of those than the usual Bond movies, mostly because by now the MPAA was founded a couple of years before this movie was made, but HOT DAMN THE MOVIE’S CALLED DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. That is such a legit chance!...I also have a bit of a problem with the fact that almost the entire movie takes place in Las Vegas. Most Bond movies have a central location, sure, but they intersperse it with multiple other locations that are noticeable in the structure of the movie and not just footnotes.

Aaaand that’s about it. Diamonds are Forever is a sadly disappointing Sean Connery movie, but as it stands on its own it’s a tolerable action flick that’s good if you’re drunk and a straight male. The focus on location is underwhelming for expectations, the main antagonist is a huge let down, and the Sean girls, for the most part, are really bad. But Jill St. John does deliver a really good performance temporarily, the action is really good, the soundtrack is surprisingly pleasant, the side villains are really well performed, and BOOBIES. I FUCKING LOVE BOOBIES. Especially after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it’s a considerably better effort than what might have emerged. I give the movie a 3.5/5 + A Pair of Boobies.

REACTION

The budgets for Bond films had steadily stayed in place, while the box office has jumped sporadically, but never anything short of incredibly profitable. On December 14th of 1971, Diamonds are Forever was released to the masses and ended its run with $116 Million on a $7.2 Million budget. (A $608,392,090.94 profit in today’s money.) Reviews were mixed, and today it stands with a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. The campy nature was highly criticized, yet was also nominated for Best Sound at the Oscars, losing to Fiddler on the Roof.

Roger Ebert criticized the complexity of the plot and "moments of silliness" such as Bond finding himself driving a moon buggy with antennae revolving and robot arms flapping. He praised the Las Vegas car chase scene, particularly the segment when Bond drives the Mustang on two wheels. James Berardinelli criticized the concept of a laser-shooting satellite and the performances of Jill St. John, Norman Burton and Jimmy Dean. Christopher Null called St. John "one of the least effective Bond girls – beautiful, but shrill and helpless.” Steve Rhodes said, "looking and acting like a couple of pseudo-country bumpkins, they (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover) seem to have wandered by accident from the adjoining sound stage into the filming of this movie." But he also extolled the car chase as "classic.”

Danny Peary has claimed that Diamonds are Forever is “is "one of the most forgettable movies of the entire Bond series" and that "until Blofeld’s reappearance we must watch what is no better than a mundane diamond-smuggling melodrama, without the spectacle we associate with James Bond: the Las Vegas setting isn’t exotic enough, there’s little humour, assassins Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are similar to characters you’d find on The Avengers, but not nearly as amusing – and the trouble Bond gets into, even Maxwell Smart could escape.” What’s even most disturbing is that IGN, known for listing the previous film’s we’ve mentioned as the best, listed Diamonds are Forever as the third worst Bond film in history. Disappointing to me, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd were listed as the worst Bond villains ever by Total Film.

But who fucking cares what the critics think! We did it! It’s the end of Phase One! We’ve completely documented the tenures of Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld! That’s pretty damn impressive. It may have been a month and a half late, but who cares? Get a drink, gentlemen. A vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred. So what’s in the future?...Well, it’s summer. Which means Phase 2 will go by way quicker than Phase 1. To ensure this, I am going to take another break. I know this review and the review of Jesus Christ Superstar are about a month late, but I need to relax and let stress relieve itself before I continue on this website. Plus finals, ACTs, AP Tests, all that good jazz. I won’t be gone for too long – expect me back Memorial Day. Then, I should have a really important review uploaded.

Next time: The Roger Moore Era begins.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

The Belles of Hell (1969)

Also known as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

GOLDEN GUN

Now we’re going to travel back in time about two months, and relocate ourselves to where this whole this final chapter of the story started. The Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica. Ian Fleming is in extremely poor health and has lost his ability to write nearly as fast as he used to be able to. Instead of two-thousand in the morning, he would be lucky to attain a full thousand in a day. Still it seemed he had no shortage of inspiration, once AGAIN deriving from experiences and people that he had witnessed in reality.

Alan Ross, editor of The London Magazine, had provided details about electroshock therapy for this next novel. As a way of thanks, Ian named the novel’s SIS station chief of Jamaica Commander Ross. The secretary of the royal St. George’s Golf Course, Mark Nicholson, would have his name placed on the novel’s CIA representative who takes residence at “the hotel.” Tony Hugill, the sugar planter named in the novel, had this name from a member of Fleming’s old 30 AU unit who managed the plantations in the West indies during the war. The book’s villain was named after George Scaramanga, a nonexistent Estonian.

Dr. No and From Russia with Love had been adapted into films prior to the writing of this next book. The increased number of gadgets in it – such as the poison gun - show that Fleming had become more and more impressed by those two Eon flicks. After finishing this manuscript, he sent it to William Plomer, one of his editors, noting that it needed a lot of re-writing. This evolved into a disdain for his recently written chronicle, to the point where he wanted to start over on the writing process, pre-emptively stating he would start about a month before the project was slated for release. William persuaded him in March of ‘64 that the copy they had both worked on had some sort of merit.

“This is, alas, the last Bond and, again alas, I mean it, for I really have run out of puff and zest.” – Ian Lancaster Fleming

In August of 1964, Ian Fleming had returned to his home in Jamaica, where he died of a heart attack. His obituary in The Times notes that he had finished revising his next novel. Despite Plomer’s efforts to get the book published, with or without Fleming, Jonathon Cape himself was extremely worried about its palatability. He sent the manuscript to Kingsley Amis, who had recently become highly interested in the Bond franchise. Jonathon paid Kingsley £35 for his thoughts and advice, despite the fact that these criticisms were never used in revising the book.

On April Fool’s Day 1965, The Man With the Golden Gun was published in a 221 page edition costing eighteen shillings. Richard Chopping was paid the same rate for his work as the previous venture. The American edition was a whopping 38 pages less and merely cost $4.50 each. It did sell tremendously, however. The increase of twenty thousand pre-orders that we had seen previously repeated itself, now at a rate of over eighty thousand pre-orders. It wound up at the ninth place of the best sellers list before even being shipped overseas.

Criticism towards the new chronicle was not praising, nor was it intense, rather it was muted. Henry Chandler summarized the reaction by saying that The Man With the Golden Gun "received polite and rather sad reviews, recognizing that the book had effectively been left half-finished, and as such did not represent Fleming at the top of his game.” Kingsley Amis, who had been hired to help work on the novel, made the final consensus that The Man With the Golden Gun was "a sadly empty tale, empty of the interests and effects that for better or worse, Ian Fleming made his own."

Maurice Richardson, a critic brought up many times in these Bond reviews, theorized that "perhaps Ian Fleming was very tired when he wrote it. Perhaps ... he left it unrevised. The fact remains that this posthumous Bond is a sadly sub-standard job….it isn't of course by any means totally unreadable but it's depressingly far from the best Bond." The Guardian brought up the issue of similarities to the movies, stating that "since Goldfinger, 007 [Bond] has been toiling hopelessly in the wake of the Zeitgeist."

The Listener, in a highly Bond mood, wrote that "Bond continues to behave with so little originality that neither Templar nor Drummond, Marlowe nor Nick Charles, would have paused to waste a pellet on him…this present work is once again a fantasy for grown-up children, neither as clever nor exciting as the early thrillers of Edgar Wallace or the boys adventure stories of fifty years ago…for those who like to escape to Bondsville, the old boom-town hasn't changed a scrap."

Newsweek said that "James Bond should have had a better exit. Sadly [it] ... ends not with a bang but a whimper. The world will be a vastly more lacklustre and complicated place with 007 gone." Associated Press agree and state that "Bond and Fleming were fun. They entertained, sometimes mildly, often grandly – but always consistently. Life will be less interesting without them." Books and Bookmen agreed as well, noting that "Bond has gone out like a lamb; even the girls are below par, while the villain seems like a refuge from a seedy Western. But we'll miss our James.”

D.A.N. Jones called this new book "an innocuous run-of-the-mill adventure story of 1911 vintage." Anthony Lejeune said that The Man with the Golden Gun was  "undeniably slight, but, like everything Fleming wrote, intensely readable ... In a sense Fleming's job was finished. He had irrevocably transformed the genre in which he worked…in highbrow novels sex and violence are treated gloomily: in Fleming's stories they are presented cheerfully with full enjoyment." ….TIME Magazine was possibly the only source of earnestly damning criticism, saying that "It may have been just as well that Fleming died when everybody still thought he could do no wrong.”

The Times finished the criticism on this new book. They seemed to predict the future in a way, stating that "[D]oubtless[, Fleming’s franchise shall] be followed with close attention by the keen-eyed admirers of the many-wiled Bond."

FAR UP! FAR OUT! FAR MORE!

Previous on the James Bondathon!: Broccoli & Sandman Inc. wished to create On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but backed out of the project because the locations would be too goddamn amazing! So they went to the beautiful land of Japan to mine all of their semi-beautiful women! During the trip, they had a brief run in with The Grim Reaper, who set their “Final Destination” on a plane doomed to crash and kill onboard! But with the help of trustable lackeys Godzilla, Freddy Krueger and Willy Wonka, they were successfully able to make Sean Connery never want to make another James Bond movie ever again! Thus, Peter Hunt was rewarded and became director of the next Bond movie.

So between wanting to make The Belles of Hell before Thunderball and after You Only Live Twice, you’d figure they’d be eager to make the new movie, right?...Nope. Now they wanna adapt The Man With the Golden Gun. Reference the earlier section for implied criticism of this decision. They also wanted to bring in a little guy named Roger Moore, who had starred in such big hits as…as…Alfred Hitchock Presents. Guess that’s not too bad. They also wanted to film in Cambodia. Then Cambodia exploded, Sandman attempted to uncook Broccoli, and Moore signed up for another season of The Saint.*

*Only part of this last sentence is actually true, just like every review I do.

So Roald Dahl was fired and was replaced with the guy who wrote all of the other Bond flicks, Richard Maibaum. He proposed an amazing decision to Broccoli & Sandman Inc., in dropping a big chunk of the sci-fi gadgets and focusing in on the plot like From Russia with Love. Simon Raven, a novel writer, was brought in by Peter Hunt to refine some of the dialogue. He said it would be “sharper, better and more intellectual.” One of the things he did was have Tracy quote James Elroy Flecker, who you all have no idea existed. Hunt and Maibaum’s missions statement #1 was clearly to stay as close to the novel as possible, coming on set with an annotated copy of the novel every day. They were successful.

After eating Broccoli alive, Sean Connery quit the franchise and told them that “I did it all for the Nookie, so you can take that cookie, and stick it up your ass.” Now that Roger Moore was doing a TV Show, Sandman went searching EVERYWHERE for a new Bond, everywhere from John Richardson (The 39 Steps, She, One Million B.C.) to Dutchman Hands of Fries (Billion Dollar Brain, The Saint, Doctor Who, Submarine X-1). But they seemed to have found their man in the form of George Lazenby, a guy you may have seen in The Kentucky Fried Movie. And maybe Universal Soldier. Interesting choice.*

*Note: Broccoli & Sandman Inc. chose George because of seeing him in a Fry’s Chocolate Cream commercial. For once my lies actually make people look BETTER.

No, but it gets better than that little asterisk. Apparently if you’re making fun of James Bond, like a….a certain Mike Myers…then you is fit for the role. Apparently if you punch a professional wrestler in the face, you is fit for the role. Apparently if you’re Fred Durst you is fit to keep on rollin’.* Apparently if you is fit for the role, Broccoli & Sandman gonna give you a seven movie deal. Apparently if you is fit for the role, YOU TURN DOWN THAT DEAL. Because the spy is going to be archaic in the 1970’s. Ladies and Jellyfish we got ourselves a bad businessman. Least he was smart enough to do one.

*2 Limp Bizkit references in one review is two too much.

Now we’re onto the Bond Girl. Her name is Tracy Drako. And we want an established actress, unlike a guy who’s mostly known for being in a commercial. Brigitte Bardot was invited, but she didn’t want a giraffatitan paycheck if she didn’t get to bang Sean Connery. Diana Rigg, who had appeared in The Avengers, was invited instead. Telly Savalas, who really isn’t important but has a damn cool name, was cast when Broccoli liked his taste. Then the green wanted to get baked so George Baker was also invited to kill me before I made any more food or drug administration puns.

On October 21st of the year 1968, somewhere in the mystical land of chocolate that we commonly refer to as Switzerland, The Belles of Hell began filming. Peter Hunt is prepared to bring a "simple, but glamorous [approach] like the 1950s Hollywood films I grew up with.” He also didn’t want " the sets [to] look like sets,” he wanted them to be realistic instead. He also wanted them to be in really interesting framing, but to still look good after being cropped for television broadcast. Michael Reed complained about all of these things, and also about how every scene had a ceiling which made it impossible to hang spotlights from the…ceiling…CAMERAMAN LOGIC!

Broccoli & Sandman & Co. recognized the ceiling problem and figured, since a lot of the movie happened outdoors, why don’t we film the movie outdoors? So they started shooting on top of now super famous, then under construction, always revolving restaurant Piz Gloria in the village of Murren. The owners of the restaurant were totally cool with it, as long as Broccoli agreed to sacrifice his body in order to supply the food for the grand opening. Broccoli, with much fear in his eyes, loudly mumbled “My body is ready.”

 <------------------Piz Gloria

This is the second time that Albert Broccoli has died in this production. Perhaps the title The Belles of Hell is not merely a simple piece of trivia.

While the first unit shot at the Piz Gloria, the second unit did ski chases. Most of the cameras were handheld, with operators holding them as they fell downhill or filming from a helicopter. Johnny Jordan, a guy who helped with the fight scenes on the previous film, developed a system where the camera could shoot from a parachute/hanglider/harness/thingymabober so that you could get a lot of angles. Swiss Olympic athletes were also involved. For some reason. But get this, if Bond or any of the other stuntmen would trip or fall, it was incorporated into the script so that they didn’t have to shoot twice. Interesting choice my gentlemen.

For the big avalanche scene, Eon was prepared to work with the Swiss army, who annually caused avalanches purposefully so that snow build up would not cause a Snowzilla. Here’s the problem: An avalanche actually happened when they got there. I’m fucking telling you guys, Final Destination 007, it’s begging to be made. So, instead of taking this opportunity, they decided to wait it out and create the effects with stock footage, “trick photography” and salt. Lots and lots of salt. They also super-imposed the stuntmen later, with optical effects. Some of these decisions, man.

George Lazenby was not pleased during this filming. He was upset with how Peter Hunt never referred to him personally, only through his assistant. (newbs.) Peter also dictated that the rest of the crew kept their distance away from George. The logic being that his acting would be better in isolation. I dunno how that works, because Bond is a social character, and apparently George agreed with me. There were also some fights with Diana Rigg, who was an established actress.

The interesting thing is that Mr. Hunt declares that these are all lies! Lies he tells us! According to him he had long, romantic walks on the beach with Geor—dammit, I’m not gonna be able to make that joke, am I?...According to him he had long talks with George before scenes were shot, and that there were no fights with Diana, and if they happened they were minor and joking. Peter also says that he wanted to give George the starring and director’s chairs for the next movie, but George turned down as we already discussed. Either one’s an idiot or one’s a bastard.

All of this resulted in a considerable incident which got Peter and Dianna pissed at George, and vice versa. Here’s Lazenby’s side of the story:

"One time, we were on location at an ice rink and Diana and Peter were drinking champagne inside. Of course I wasn't invited as Peter was there. I could see them through the window, but the crew were all outside stomping around on the ice trying to keep warm. So, when she got in the car, I went for her. She couldn't drive the car properly and I got in to her about her drinking and things like that. Then she jumped out and started shouting 'he's attacking me in the car!' I called her a so-and-so for not considering the crew who were freezing their butts off outside. And it wasn't that at all in the end, as she was sick that night, and I was at fault for getting in to her about it. I think everyone gets upset at one time."

As punishment for this incident, George Lazenby was required to not only fight a stranger in the Alps, but also feed a stranger scrambled eggs. The former was merely some random asshole hiking in the Alps, which was a pretty easy fight considering all the insane shit that M gives Bond in the beginning of all these movies. The latter was much harder for George to pull-off, even though Sean could’ve done it easily. The stranger whom would be fed scrambled eggs was celebrating Christmas inside of his own house. Thus, George went down the chimney, but got stuck halfway through, which meant he had to blow up the chimney with a bomb.

This nearly killed him.

Having become a bloody mess, he barely crawled across the living room of the house, shot the stranger in the knee, and then weakly opened the refrigerator. He grabbed a bag of scrambled eggs out of the refrigerator, a miracle that was even present, and force-fed it to the stranger in the plastic wrapping. George Lazenby died after this event due to a loss of blood and being blown up. A cover-up soon followed to hire an imposter to play George in all real life activities and attempt to cover up the evidence, so that “no real superspies were harmed during the production of this feature.”

Then some snow fell, and it delayed filming for about a week. Or fifty-six days, whichever comes first. They eventually said “screw it, we’ve already lost two men” and traveled over to England. Specifically the classic Pinewood Studios, after M’s house being shot in Buckinghamshire.*After this, which apparently will not provide details, the filming crew traveled to Portugal to finish principal photography. Originally Sandman wanted these shots to be done in France, but after Peter Hunted down some decent places, he was like “dude, how many movies have the goddamn Eiffel Tower? Huh? About two. C’mon, man, let’s get some new shit.”

*Dat English city name.

When it came time to do the soundtrack, John Barry stepped in, as he had for all Eon Bond fimls aside from Dr. No. Barry opted to use more electronic instruments and add an aggressive feel to the score. "I have to stick my oar in the musical area double strong to make the audience try and forget they don't have Sean ... to be Bondian beyond Bondian." His first challenge was coming up with a song that could include the title “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The only way he figured he could sneak that in would be if the sound was mechanic. What he doesn’t realize is that if he just used his goddamn time machine like he should’ve, he would’ve known that in eleven years THIS would exist:

But no. Shame on thee Barry, for not having included an AC/DC that hadn’t even been recorded yet.

It’s the eighteenth of December, a week before Christmas, in London, England. The newest attraction is a movie known to most as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It is clocking in at the longest Bond movie to date, and it shall keep this title for thirty-seven years. There is a huge challenge presented in this movie, for we have lost the greatest Bond to ever grace the silver screen. Can Broccoli & Sandman pull this feat off? Will Broccoli ever miraculously come back to life? Will the George Lazenby conspiracy be uncovered? Will AC/DC ever claim their rightful place as Bond musicians? TUNE IN THIS TIME ON THE JAMES BONDATHON! Same Bond-Channel, Same Bond-Time.

James Bond 007 is back!

(well, kind of.)

Lettuce cut to the chase, shall we? George Lazenby has temporarily replaced Sean Connery in the role of James Bond. His voice is probably the best part of his performance. It is as deep as Sean’s if not more so, and comes off as a lot smoother and healthier. It can become quite monotonous though as his voice doesn’t feature as much variety as Sean’s. He looks fairly attractive, he definitely is an improvement over Sean in terms of how old he is. But some things like his hair and his facial structure feel like they came off of a stereotypical, comically exaggerated seven foot tall giant.

George’s personality as Bond is where I really start to have issues. He appears to no longer be as misogynist as Sean acted, which is definitely a good thing, just a shock as compared to how the treatment of women had been noticeably negatively escalating in the previous films. Feels like it might not have been a gradual enough change, since the audience had come to know that bad role model of Bond. Now he’s offering to spend time with Moneypenny, admitting she’s smarter than him, putting the health of girls as a priority…it’s like if Eminem became a feminist. Good thing, shocking change.

The worst part, though, is when George starts rambling on about genealogy and the royal family. Not only does he do this, but he does it in a room full of really attractive women that don’t get to see men that often. At one point he even makes a remark that reminded me of…me. If you know me personally you know Da Ca$hman =/= Bond. (Although I would totally dig a 25 part movie series about me.) He is a total nerd. On the Brightside, talking about Moneypenny earlier, she really does act like a smart, independent woman, who pretty much saves Bond’s career (in a very cliché manner) and is a refreshing change from the character who was interested in the adulterous ventures of her husband.

I got some problems with Blofeld. First off, as I’ve already mentioned, the movie is attempting to stay as close to the book as possible. And as is already circulating in thy head, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the book, came before You Only Live Twice. Not to mention several of the earlier books, such as Moonraker, Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever, and many of the short stories had not yet been turned into feature films. So there’s going to be inconsistencies. Such as Blofeld not recognizing Bond. This has become kind of a big deal in the world of Bond and heavily confuses anybody who didn’t have access to Wikipedia back in 1969.

That’s not the only thing though. We’ve got a new actor for Blofeld, and no it’s not Sad Santa, it’s still essentially the David Draiman/Howie Mandel/Picard dude. But instead of Donald Pleasance it is now Telly Savales. They’ve gotten rid of the scar. It wasn’t the most awesome injury in movie history, unlike two different characters who had Scar in their name, but it did add a layer to his character. It feels too separated from the original revelation which was supposed to be this huge turning point for the series.

His eyebrows are a lot thicker and his skin is a lot smoother, making him look more like a sophisticated business man with a family then a heartless villain with a depressing backstory. There is evidence that dictates this decision was originally made because they wanted a plastic surgery cop-out to explain the change in actors, but this was changed at the last minute. Still, Blofeld took a huge hit in this movie aesthetically. His voice is also way too deep, like, he could potentially do commercials if they tried hard enough. He’s not this soft, cracked, yet ingenious, unstable and psychopathic mind that Donald played up.

Music is kind of lame. It is way too soft for this kind of movie. First example is the opening theme. Yeah, yeah, all AC/DC rants aside, that supposedly “electronic and aggressive” opening theme makes the You Only Live Twice song look like hard rock. A lot of the music is halfway between completely bland and perfectly fitting the mood of whatever scene it happens to accompany, which makes it just really nice sounding annoying background noise. This effect does many things, including turning high adrenaline music into jazz shit you would hear in the Star Wars cantina. This is the most damaging during the ski chase. Sometimes there are climatic scenes with absolutely no music whatsoever and it feels really awkward. But the final action scene redeems for this because it features the classic James Bond theme, which by that point is highly refreshing.

You know a lot of my problems could’ve been reduced if not fully fixed if the pacing was fixed. Most movies with bad pacing feature a lack of progression in the plotline(s.) This movie doesn’t feature that at all. This movie features plenty of story progression. But too many stories. Far too many. This is what happens when you attempt to adapt a novel in full to a movie. A two-hundred to three-hundred page book that takes place in a month can totally work, as long as it has a ton of characters and different things going on at the same time. That’s what makes a novel a novel. A movie can still have different plotlines, but if it can’t have this many. The only reason to have it be two and half hours anyways is if the story is highly extensive in a linear sense.*

*Not meaning the movie must be linear in editing or even writing, just that if the movie was rearranged to be so the story would be extensive.

You know, I’m being a little too hard on this movie. It’s certainly worse than You Only Live Twice, but much better than Thunderball. There are entertaining moments and a couple of well-written scenes, even if they’re far between. If you’re looking to totally zone out or watch some super typical Bond with some friends and possibly some spaghetti, watching this movie is totally satisfactory.

The weirdest part is that, despite the movie mostly being devoid of good stuff in comparison to movies like From Russia with Love or Dr. No, it had one of the biggest impacts on me personally at the very end. Despite being cliché, the ending is so surprisingly depressing. Tears were shed. In this popcorn movie. You don’t even fully realize how intense it is the first time, but then George does the one bit of legit acting in the whole movie and he totally gets at you. You rewatch it and it gives you the same kind of eerie feeling that a Donnie Darko can give you at the end. Congrats guys. For the first time in a long time, you made me want to cheer for the good guy. You made me want to see the bad guy get killed. Too bad it was at the end of the movie. Overall, the movie gets a 3.25/5

RECEPTION

On the 18th of December in 1969, On Her Majesty's Secret Service premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, England. Lazenby, or at least his imposter, showed up to the premiere looking like a caveman. His excuse was that he didn't want to make another Bond movie, but really it's just a matter of catching his soda in his beard. Lazenby's imposter attempted to persuade news outlets that he had faught with the company about this decision, and so Eon played it up. But first they needed to hire an imposter Broccoli. Once that was finished, the 2-on-1 MMA Match brought more audience members than the actual movie itself.

So you know how when new technology in movies comes around, it takes time for theaters to adapt to it? Especially if only certain movies are doing it? Take 3D, or color, or sound movies. But stereo, something that had been around for a while, hadn't been installed in the Odeon Leicester Square theater. But when Bond starts using stereo, they must immediately install the technology! Like it's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or something....well, maybe. It toppled the North American box office when it opened in the States, earning $1.2 Million in the opening weekend. It closed with $64.6 Million, about half of You Only Live Twice's gross, but still super impressive.

But you know what Yogurt says. "Merchandise! Where the real money from the movie is made!" That really couldn't be done this time around. They didn't want to print anything with Bond's face on it, because Connery wasn't the current Bond, but George would not be a future Bond. Not to mention, there's not a ton of gadgets used in this movie. The only items of merchandise that really stand out were the soundtrack and the novelization of the film. There were some other toys and trinkets but nothing super exciting. And unlike most Bond films, it didn't get nominated for virtually any awards, which meant the marketing stopped after trailers and posters.

The reviews were not especially forgiving, especially to George Lazenby. They even made pretty damn good jokes of him, referring to him as "The Big Fry," which referenced the  chocolate commercials that got him slated to play Bond. Derek Malcolm said what can be hold as truth, that George "is not a good actor[,] and though I never thought Sean Connery was all that stylish either, there are moments when one yearns for a little of his louche panache." Tom Milne was incredibly dismissive, to the point of a certain real-life Bond villain, namely Anthony Boucher.

Tom said that he "[F]ervently trust [The Belles of Hell] will be the last of the James Bond films. All the pleasing oddities and eccentricities and gadgets of the earlier films have somehow been lost, leaving a routine trail through which the new James Bond strides without noticeable signs of animation." Donald Zec was also dismissive of George, but tried to compare him to Connery in way that made Sean look better. "[George] looks uncomfortably in the part like a size four foot in a size ten gumboot." He enjoyed the female lead however, saying "there is style to Diana Rigg's performance and I suspect that the last scene which draws something of a performance out of Lazenby owes much to her silken expertise."

There were Lazenby sympathizers, such as Alexander Walker."The truth is that George Lazenby is almost as good a James Bond as the man referred to in his film as 'the other fellow'. Lazenby's voice is more suave than sexy-sinister and he could pass for the other fellow's twin on the shady side of the casino. Bond is now definitely all set for the Seventies."* Judith Crist (nice name) joined in the sympathetic fun, trying to justify George with seriousness, claiming that "This time around there's less suavity and a no-nonsense muscularity and maleness to the role via the handsome Mr. Lazenby."

*If only he knew... 

Molly Haskell probably has the most interesting comments. "In a world*, an industry, and particularly a genre which values the new and improved product above all, it is nothing short of miraculous to see a movie which dares to go backward, a technological artefact which has nobly deteriorated into a human being. I speak of the new and obsolete James Bond, played by a man named George Lazenby, who seems more comfortable in a wet tuxedo than a dry martini, more at ease as a donnish genealogist than reading (or playing) Playboy, and who actually dares to think that one woman who is his equal is better than a thousand part-time playmates."

*Where the children of the world, travel around the world, to give the world....one name, rises above.

You know, Molly's got to be my favorite at this point? You wanna know why...? This is a little thingymabober she said in her review: "The love between Bond and his Tracy begins as a payment and ends as a sacrament. After ostensibly getting rid of the bad guys, they are married. They drive off to a shocking, stunning ending. Their love, being too real, is killed by the conventions it defied. But they win the final victory by calling, unexpectedly, upon feeling. Some of the audience hissed, I was shattered. If you like your Bonds with happy endings, don't go." In the end, even Derek Malcolm had to admit "[In the end, it was indeed] quite a jolly frolic in the familiar money-spinning fashion."

These days the debate is still going on. James Berardinelli was highly positive, saying "with the exception of one production aspect, [it] is by far the best entry of the long-running James Bond series. The film contains some of the most exhilarating action sequences ever to reach the screen, a touching love story, and a nice subplot that has agent 007 crossing (and even threatening to resign from) Her Majesty's Secret Service. The problem[atic production aspect] is...Bond himself ... George Lazenby is boring, and his ineffectualness lowers the picture's quality. Lazenby can handle the action sequences, but that's about all he masters." Leonard Maltin also suggested that if Connery was in the role, it would have been the best movie in the series.

Danny Peary was "...not sure I agree with those who insist that if Connery had played Bond it would definitely be the best of the entire Bond series ... Connery's Bond, with his boundless humor and sense of fun and self-confidence, would be out of place in this picture. It actually works better with Lazenby because he is incapable of playing Bond as a bigger-than-life hero; for one thing he hasn't the looks ... Lazenby's Bond also hasn't the assurance of Connery's Bond and that is appropriate in the crumbling, depressing world he finds himself. He seems vulnerable and jittery at times. At the skating rink, he is actually scared. We worry about him ... On Her Majesty's Secret Service doesn't have Connery and it's impossible to ever fully adjust to Lazenby, but I think that it still might be the best Bond film, as many Bond cultists claim."

Brian Fairbanks sided with Danny, saying "[On Her Majesty's Secret Service] gives us a James Bond capable of vulnerability, a man who can show fear and is not immune to heartbreak. Lazenby is that man, and his performance is superb." He thought Lazenby to be "not only the best Bond, it is also the last truly great film in the series. In fact, had the decision been made to end the series, this would have been the perfect final chapter." The film now has an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is eighth place on IGN's list of Bond films. 007 Magazine reported a fan poll that suggested it was the best Bond film, and that it enjoyed massive home video success.

I will admit it has exhibited the best morals of any Bond film thus far...that doesn't make it the best though. 81%, we'll see what a certain Big Tam has to say about that.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time on The Bondathon: Eternity 007…the finale of Phase-One.

The Producers (1968)

The movie that was about a play that got turned into a play that got turned into a movie.  Thanks Great God of Bacon.

REVIEW

This little thingymabobber just so happens to be Mel Brook’s first full motion picture. His origins in storytelling lie in the live theater, with productions such as Shinbone Alley, All-American, and some skits for The New Faces of 1952. Yes Get Smart might have come before this on the TV, but it figures that his cinematic debut would deal with live theater. The movie follows a producer and an accountant who scheme to get rich quick by producing a flop that would cost minimal amounts of money but would ask for a million dollar budget. From there they specifically attempt to get the worst fits for roles as director, writer, and their star: Adolf Hitler.

Zero Mostel (dat name), who would unfortunately meet his maker 9 years later, plays Max Bialystock, the typical greedy person. He’s the producer and gets too involved in the creative for his own good, he is money focused and gives more a fuck about his pocketbook than about the law. He’s fat, he’s a pervert, and highly intolerant – although he’s really good at masking this. He’s played alongside a very unusually casted Gene Wilder, the accountant who is extremely anxious and afraid, but smart, and is really only in the ride because he has nothing better to do.

These two play as a duo and frankly have great chemistry together. Now as horrible as this sounds, I relate a lot to Zero Mostel’s character Max. Having to deal with a guy who is so nice you’d never want to put him in an asylum, but so nuts you wouldn’t remain sane if you didn’t, is something I’ve had to deal with on a day to day basis throughout my life. And I’m fairly certain many of my friends feel that way around me. Wow I feel like a good person. This part of Max is the part that allows me to be able to see from his perspective. While the perversions, the greed and the abuse of people’s emotions keeps my perception of him in check. He is still a slimy little dude.

Gene Wilder, the awesome actor he is, puts on a great performance. The part I’d say that is relatable is that he is, frankly, the average working man. Somebody who has talents unmatched, who frankly has every right to be in the bosses’ position, but yet is screwed by life over and over for some stupid reason to stay in their complacent part of life. It’s a never ending cycle that most people can understand. The part that might not be so relatable, that’s more played up for comedy…damn this kid is nervous. I mean, I’ve been super nervous before but he is so nervous it’s impossible. His anxiety attacks are great and are probably the reason Gene was put in this role. His face…bright red…veins popping out of his face. It’s great. And kind of sad.

The last guy I’d like to talk about is Franz Liebkind, played by Kenneth Mars. He’s the author of the play which is, “virtually a love letter to Hitler” as Zero would put it. He is extremely paranoid about an American takeover which he thinks has already happened, and is, like Zero said, practically in love with Hitler. He’s implied to be a veteran but I don’t think they ever explicitly say that he is. He, frankly, steals the show. Aside from maybe (and I mean maybe) Gene and Zero, anything becomes underwhelming around his insanity, as it is supposed to be. I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to deal with somebody similar (but not nearly as extreme) as him and I understand how insane it is, so seeing these characters have to deal with it is like “YUP. I’VE BEEN THERE.

(…sucker.)”

You know, my arch-nemesis once said something along the lines of “a proper parody would be a serious movie if you took out all the jokes.” Well, I got one better for you Savage. How about a parody that is so close to what would actually happen in this situation, you can’t take out all the jokes. That’s definitely not to imply the jokes aren’t ridiculous, believe me they’re totally out there. But they’re comedic instances that would happen in real life. This situation would be convoluted by requirement. But could also happen. Is not the worst idea in the world. I mean, they fail, but it’s something that somebody would try. Especially in today’s business economics. I think that’s part of what makes the movie work so well. This is exactly how it would play out in real life and it’s freaking hilarious.

I do need to address one important issue: It’s really, really dated. The pair of the greedy boss and the nervous nerd have been used as the main focus of a movie so many times, and even more so a side mention in various cartoons, that it has become stale and no longer funny in modern media. This movie is lucky in that modern parodies have not picked up on all aspects of its chemistry (Max does have feelings, Leo does have some confidence, Leo is not a child) it is definitely something the modern person has seen before. Not to mention the opening and ending credits remind me of What’s Up Tiger Lily? The movie also has an extremely small amount of background music, something not found in modern movies. There’s not even a single comedic sound effect. This probably is a result of the age of the film and this being Mel’s breakout movie. I’m taking a random guess the movie probably came off 5x funnier in 1968 than in 2013.

That said, even an even 45 years later cannot age it enough for it not to be funny. I got a lot of laughs out of this. The magic of this movie is in this is exactly how I would expect the situation to play out. The cast suits everything perfectly…except for maybe Gene, but he’s still a star when he gets pissed off. It’s an extremely influential comedy film that has inspired countless comics, animators and other forms of comedy creators. I mean, Jeez, if you’re looking for a recommendation, how come you already haven’t seen this? It’s not like everybody with good taste requests this. It really has no problems other than some unnecessarily loud moments and the dating. I plan to see this multiple times over. And if you’re looking for something different form Mel Brook’s filmography, I have it for you. 5.5/5

AFTERMATH

*All the times this situation gets more and more ironic.

Originally titled Springtime for Hitler, but retitled The Producers for commercial purposes (and because apparently Joseph E. Levine is a douchebag), Mel Brook’s breakout film was, ironically*, expelled from its investors. The film was refused to be distributed by Embassy pictures originally because of bad taste.* However, Peter Sellers, known for movies like the Pink Panther trilogy and Dr. Strangelove, had a private viewing and placed an ad in Variety Magazine for a wider release. It got some release in America, but ironically*, was more widely seen in Europe.

There’s been a rumor for all of these 45 years that the film was banned in Germany. I’m sure that people believe this for some taste reasons, but it was actually out of finances**. The movie did awful business in the United Kingdom and so the release in Germany was extremely limited. But in Sweden, the movie did tremendous success. So much so that Sweden for Mel Brooks became like Germany for Toho. (I’m sure I have multiple reviews that cover that saga.) Sweden titled all but two of Mel Brooks’s future films with Springtime in them. Here’s the list:

Springtime for Mother-In-Law (The Twelve Chairs), Springtime for the Sherriff (Blazing Saddles), Springtime for Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein), Springtime for Silent Movies (Silent Movie), Springtime for the Lunatics (High Anxiety, that one is my favorite btw), Springtime for World History (History of the World Part I), Springtime for Space (Spaceballs) and Springtime for the Slums (Life Stinks.) When it was first released in America, the reviews were really mixed. Except New York. They HATED it. They talked about some other stuff, but what really happened was that they were offended*. Remember: New York. This is a story about two Jews* (or at least according to Wikipedia, I never picked up on that specific fact) who cheat the business for money and make a tasteless story about Hitler 23 years after the war. You’re going to have a ton of negative reaction to this movie initially.

Most other people liked it*. Certain people absolutely loved it, and they saw into the future. Time Magazine, Roger Ebert, Variety and Rotten Tomatoes are all sources where you can find positive feedback on the picture. Roger Ebert would say in his review, decades later: "I remember finding myself in an elevator with Brooks and his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, in New York City a few months after The Producers was released. A woman got onto the elevator, recognized him and said, 'I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.' Brooks smiled benevolently. 'Lady,' he said, 'it rose below vulgarity.'

Oh and apparently British people liked it.*

The film went on to win Best Original Screenplay in the 1968 Oscars, running up against 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gene Wilder was also nominated for best actor in a supporting role. It was stored in 1996 in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It has been adapted into a live action play* in 2001 and a new film in 2005. It pretty much launched Mel Brook’s career. Like, to the moon. High Scholars (Schoolers?) rarely have good taste, or even have seen movies from before they were born. But my other art loving colleagues are not alone in their admiration for this dude. Movies like Young Frankenstein, Men in Tights, and Spaceballs – especially Spaceballs – are uber popular with the modern crowd. And these are clearly very dated movies. There must be something right going on, and frankly, that boat is not without a specific Ca$hman.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Also known as Jimmy Bond and the Chocolate Factory.

THE NOVEL

It is January 1963. We are in Jamaica. There is an estate. It is called The Goldeneye Estate. There is a man in this building. He has only a year and a half to live. His name is Ian Fleming. A cultural icon and a war veteran. He has just finished his one-hundred and seventy page manuscript, titled You Only Live Twice. He may revise this chronicle, but he most likely will not. The mood of this new chronicle is dark and claustrophobic, when reflects the author’s melancholia. The main character, James Bond, has been skewed towards the personality of Sean Connery’s interpretation in Dr. No. This includes a new sense of humor and Scottish antecedents.

Fleming had traveled to Japan before, in 1959, on assignment for The Sunday Times and for his book Thrilling Cities. That visit was a mere three days. In 1962, Fleming had returned to the country with his two Australian journalist friends, Richard Hughes and Tiger Saito. Like everybody else on God’s Green Earth, their identities were stolen for the next Bond novel in You Only Live Twice. They became Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka. Unlike most, Richard Hughes was also the model for a character in a different piece of literature. He was made into Old Craw in John le Carre’s The Honourable Schoolboy.

There’s one other really cool thing about the novel, but we’ll save that for a little later.

You Only Live Twice was published on March the sixteenth of nineteen sixty-four by Jonathon Cape and cost sixteen shillings a piece, as opposed to the American printing in August that would cost four dollars and fifty cents. There were a whopping 62,000 pre-orders for the book, which was nearly a 50% increase from the last book’s pre-orders. The cover was once again commissioned by long time Bond regular, Richard Chopping. His fee rose from two hundred and fifty guineas from The Spy Who Loved Me to three-hundred guineas for this next novel.

"I have had a talk with Ian about the ideas for the ingredients of this design. He is very much in favour of the toad ... but with a suitable array of oriental embellishrangment, i.e. toad plus Japanese flower arrangements, which he thinks should be sitting in a suitable piece of Japanese pottery, perhaps ornamented with a dragon motif. If you could manage a pink dragonfly sitting on the flowers, and perhaps just one epicanthic eye peering through them he thinks that will be just splendid!" – Jonathon Cape

Cyril Connoly, one working for Ian’s employer, wrote that his new book was "reactionary, sentimental, square, the Bond-image flails its way through the middle-brow masses, a relaxation to the great, a stimulus to the humble, the only common denominator between Kennedy and Oswald.” Take out “Sunday” and the critic is a lot less impressed, complaining that "as a moderate to middling travelogue what follows will just about do ... the plot with its concomitant sadism does not really get going until more than half way through…Though Mr. Fleming's macabre imagination is as interesting as ever, some of the old snap seems to have gone…Mr. Fleming would keep us on tenterhooks, but at this rate of going even his most devoted admirers will free themselves before very long." The Spectator felt that "Ian Fleming has taken a hint from films of his books and is now inclined to send himself up. I am not at all sure that he is wise.”

The Belfast Telegraph brought the first wave of heavy contrast, saying that "[Ian is] still in a class of his own." The Bookman declared that this new novel "must rank among the best of the Bonds.” Esquire Magazine brought the train back on the negative and hateful tracks that had now been established. "You Only Live Twice has a decidedly perfunctory air. Bond can only manage to sleep with his Japanese girl with the aid of colour pornography. His drinking sessions seem somehow desperate, and the horrors are too absurd to horrify ... it's all rather a muddle and scarcely in the tradition of Secret Service fiction. Perhaps the earlier novels are better. If so, I shall never know, having no intention of reading them."

The Observer thought that the new book was "…far from the best Bond, [yet] really almost as easy to read as any of them.” He would go on to provide some negative criticism, citing the narrative as "…a bit weak, action long delayed and disappointing when it comes but the surround of local colour ... has been worked over with that unique combination of pubescent imagination and industry which is Mr. Fleming's [specialty]*." The Guardian wrote that "I think [Fleming] must be getting tired of the ineffable James Bond and perhaps even of writing thrillers at all…of the 260 pages of You Only Live Twice... only 60 are concerned with the actual business of a thriller.”

*Brackets added to fix spelling

Peter Duvall Smith, a name subconsciously familiar to Da Ca$hman, was indecisive in concerns to this next entry. "[T]he background is excellent ... Mr. Fleming has caught the exact 'feel' of Japan…[yet it] is not really a success and it's Bond's fault mainly. He just doesn't add up to a human being.” The Listener was dissatisfied, saying that thought it can be read as a thriller, "…the book can be treated as a tourist guide to some of the more interesting parts of Japan…since not very much in the way of real excitement happens until the latter half of the book, perhaps it is better to ignore the whole thing.”

Robert Fulford of the Maclean’s Magazine noted that "the characteristic which makes Fleming appear so silly also helps make him so popular: his moral simplicity. When we read James Bond we know whose side we are on, why we are on that side and why we are certain to win. In the real world that is no longer possible." Charles Poore said that Bond’s mission "is aimed at restoring Britain's pre-World War II place among the powers of the world. And on that subject, above all others, Ian Fleming's novels are endlessly, bitterly eloquent." Mary Castle finished that You Only Live Twice was "Bond's latest and grimmest mission.”

 

…AND TWICE IS THE ONLY WAY TO LIVE!

So here we are at Eon Productions, also known as Sandman & Broccoli Inc. They’ve just released Thunderball and they’re swimming in the money. Their goal was to pump out another super successful film as fast as possible. Originally they thought this would be fully accomplished with a film adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but it turned out that the location scouting would be too tedious. (Clearly they must have had big plans because the location scouting for the previous films had been quite impressive.)

Broccoli attempted to hire director Lewis Gilbert, and only persuaded him with the line "You can't give up this job. It's the largest audience in the world." Broccoli, Sandman, Gilbert, Ken Adams and cinematographer Freddie Young (Doctor Zhivago) boarded a plane to Japan, spending three weeks for locations. (Again, what were they planning for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?) SPECTRE had its location changed to an extinct volcano after learning that a castle near the shore would be culturally impossible in Japan.

The group was due to return to the United Kingdom on March 5th, 1966, but rescheduled after they were told they had the opportunity of viewing “a ninja demonstration.” Whatever the fuck that is. Now here’s the real catch. The plane crashed twenty five minutes after lifting off, killing every single passenger on board. Now fast forward a few decades, as in right now. The director of Final Destination 5 said that if the movie was a success, there would be two back to back sequels. Is this not the perfect time for a crossover? You could have Final

Done with my cheesy ideas. You don’t even want to know what I talked about on Facebook.* Broccoli, Sandman, Gilbert, Ken Adams and Freddy Krueger as he shall permanently be referred to, met up with Peter Hunt, the editor of the Bond films, who had apparently been taking a legit vacation in Tokyo. You guys don’t believe in destiny yet?...Well, Peter really didn’t want to leave, so instead of getting a new editor Eon Productions filmed almost the entire movie in Japan, including a very elaborate Japanese marriage scene. Awesomely, Toho Studios provided soundstages and other production necessities for the movie, which could mean my Final Destination 007 idea could also feature Godzilla and characters from Seven Samurai.

*He’s being dishonest again. – Mr. Twister

*It was called The Living Deadlights and it was going to be a crossover between Stephen King and Ian Fleming.

Broccoli, Sandman and company imported Henry Jack Bloom at this point to work on the script with them. Not a ton of ideas were used for the finished script, and he was only credited for “Additional Story Material.” The opening scene was the majority of his contribution. Seeing as Henry wasn’t gonna work and veteran to the series Richard Maibaum was unavailable, they contacted Roald Dahl to work on the script. So now my super crossover with Pennywise, Freddy Krueger, Godzilla, James Bond, Seven Samurai and Final Destination can also feature Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka.

Damn I’m coming up with a marketable idea.

So why Roald Dahl, you may ask? Turns out he was a good friend of Ian Fleming’s. He didn’t have much screenplay experience, aside from an unfinished project entitled The Belles of Hell go Ting-a-ling-a-ling. This scares me deeply. Yet despite being friends, Dahl was not afraid to criticize Fleming, saying that You Only Live Twice was "Ian Fleming’s worst book, with no plot in it which would even make a movie.” He compared it to a travelogue – in other words a remake of Thrilling Cities – and said he had to come up with a new plot while "retain[ing]…four or five of the original story's ideas."

This was a little harder than he had expected. Not kidding, he is quoted in saying "[I]didn't know what the hell Bond was going to do” even though he was due for a first draft in six weeks. He just ended up doing something along the lines of Dr. No. Dahl then had free reign on the script, only being required to keep the character of Bond similar to how he had previously been portrayed, and using the “three girl formula” which includes an ally, a henchwoman to get killed (the feminist in me is not a fan of this one) and the “main Bond girl.”

Kissy Suzuki was lifted from the book as one of the Bond girl’s, but Dahl created the other two in Aki and Helga Brandt. He noted the director, Gilbert, for being extremely cooperative, saying "He not only helped in script conferences, but had some good ideas and then left you alone, and when you produced the finished thing, he shot it. Other directors have such an ego that they want to rewrite it and put their own dialogue in, and it's usually disastrous. What I admired so much about Lewis Gilbert was that he just took the screenplay and shot it. That's the way to direct: You either trust your writer or you don't."

When the script and location scouting was finished, everybody involved had trouble facing another major obstacle. Sean Connery had grown disenfranchised with the…franchise. Sean was tired of Bond and feared his extra work would not only be tedious but lead to typecasting. Connery was persuaded with an asston of extra cash, yet still he was prepared to leave the series next film. This is actually going to be playing a major part of the story of how the Bond series had been created and will be covered…soon…

In casting other characters, Jan Werich was originally chosen to play Blofeld. He’s largely unknown in countries outside of Eastern Europe and Russia, but is revered in those areas, especially in Czech Republic. Broccoli and Sandman described him as a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus.” My crossover idea is getting more and more ridiculous. Gilbert was determined to make Father Christmas work as a main villain of the Bond franchise, but eventually was persuaded by EVERYBODY that he was a bad choice. They ended up going with Donald Pleasance, who has the most impressive filmography of anybody in this production.*

*(The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Great Escape, THX 1138, Henry VIII, Halloween, Dracula, Halloween II, Escape from New York, Halloween 4, Django 2, Halloween 5, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.)

Donald originally wanted to perform Blofeld like he was doing Quasimodo, a hump, a limp, a beard, a lame hand and an unsettling scar. He then realized he wasn’t Lon Chaney Sr. and scrapped the idea. Moving onto other casting, Helga Brandt was a character who had many auditions from European models, which resulted in German actress Karin Dor being cast. Karin never used a physical stunt double, but oddly only spoke her English lines. Her German lines were dubbed by an unknown actress. Question mark.

Tetsuro Tamba (Prophecies of Nostradamus, Message from Space) was chosen by director Lewis Gilbert after working with him on the film The 7th Dawn. A number of actual martial artists were hired to play ninjas. Many were unable to play the part just because they spoke limited English and communicating with directors, producers and set staff would prove highly difficult. Akiko Wakabayashi (King Kong vs. Godzilla, Dogora, Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster, What’s Up Tiger Lily?, also the most stereotypically Japanese name ever) and Mie Hama (King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes) were chosen over all other applicants.

With everybody rounded up, filming began July 1966 and ended March 1967. Many of the Japanese locations used include Himeji Castle, Hotel New Otani, Bonotsu, the Kobe harbor and Mount Shinmoedake. This film, similarly to many blockbusters including one of my personal favorites The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, took advantage of a large population to create a massive crowd for filming. A fan of Sean Connery actually started following the man around with a handheld camera. The police had to get involved to prevent invasion of filming. Ca$hman does not approve of that last sentence.

“Little Nellie” was an armed autogyro that was included  in the film after Ken Adams heard about it in a radio interview with its inventor, RAF Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Wallis piloted his own invention on the film set with many mockup armaments attached by John Stears. The aerial fights with Little Nellie were originally shot in Miyazaki. It eighty-five takeoffs, five hours of flight, a crash for each hour, lots of explosions, getting thrown in prison for those explosions, and cameraman John Jordon’s foot being severed for the crew to decide to relocate. They moved to Torremolinos, Spain, which looked a lot like Japan somehow.

Back in England, the sets of SPECTRE’s volcano base were being built, which ate up a million dollars from the $10.3 Million budget. This included a helicopter and a monorail. The massive set could be seen from three miles away and attracted a lot of tourists to the location. In attempting to run away from the tourists, Broccoli & Sandman ran to the ocean before swimming to Norway, Russia, and finally Hong Kong. They found Diane Cilento swimming right about in North Korea and decided to film her unknowing to her own person. Once arriving in Japan, they found Sean Connery beating the shit out of Donn F. Draeger. And Thelma Connell was killed.

The film is mostly finished, now all that is needed is a soundtrack. Bring in John Barry, the guy responsible for almost all of the Bond films so far. He attempted to fuse Oriental music with what was then current Japanese music. The theme song was recorded with Leslie Bricusse and Nancy Sinatra. The more Nancy transformed into Minnie Mouse, the more nervous she got and the closer she was to running faster than a speeding cheetah on five hour energy. The final song uses twenty-five different takes. Not that there were twenty-five different takes, I mean that twenty-five takes were incorporated. In other words, THERE WAS A SHITTON OF TAKES.

This is one of the few movie soundtracks to be more popular on the radio than on the silver screen. The vinyl record made No. 44 in the United States and No. 11 in the United Kingdom. The title song was released as a single on CD. Acen, whoever that is, sampled that title song for his piece “Trip II to the Moon Part 2.” Icelandic singer Bjork covered the song. Robbie Williams sampled the string figure for the song “Millenium.” Coldplay covered the song while touring in 2001. Natcha Atlas covered it for her 2005 Best of compilation.

Ironically, the original title song wasn’t this one. It was a song recorded by Julie Rodgers, where two lines of lyrics come from. Roger’s version appears on the James Bond 30th Anniversary CD uncredited. In the 1990’s, another alternative theme song was discovered amongst the RCA vaults, sung by Lorraine Chandler. It became extremely popular with followers of the Northern Soul scene after official release, and can be found on several Radio Corporation of America Records compilations.

You Only Live Twice was released on June 12th of 1967 on a budget of $10.3 Million. Let’s see if it can recover from the boredom of Thunderball.

WELCOME TO JAPAN, MR. BOND

So first thing’s first, all the cover artists are pretty much spot on. This is definitely the best Bond song. All the other ones were boring at best, dreadful at worst. Nancy Sinatra is not her father…far from it actually. But she gets the job done. I also enjoyed the various string parts, and the mood should establish a mix of the 60’s version of “rock epicness” as I call it that is connected to the action and the villains, mixed with the warmth that is connected to the girls and the environments that Bond explores.

I do wonder how much the disenfranchisement Sean Connery felt with the 007 series had to do with his performance. From over here in Ca$hland, I can’t see anything bad happening to way he physically acts. In fact, when it comes to the scenes where he does the charmingly misogynistic* seduction, he seems to be at his peak. However, when it comes to his voice, he does seem somewhat stoney. Not in the typical way where he’s just using a deeper voice to be attractive, I’m talking monotone/robot/Asperger’s patient. Although there’s no real difference between the three.** At the beginning I was honestly (and stupidly) wondering if he was doing some sort of a weird Russian accent.

*If not in the action, then it certainly is so in the fact he does it with so many women.

**I have such horrible taste.

James Bond movie. You gotta have chicks. And in regards to the eggs hatched in this movie…yeah I have no regrets for claiming that Bond’s actions are misogynistic earlier. So lemme get this series of events straight. James Bond is screwing a bitch, only to have her trap him. That’s fine. Then it turns out she was part of an elaborate scheme to fake Bond’s death. Not as awesome for her but still fine, Bond needs to stay alive for these movies to keep going, after all. Now, back to the series of events.

We found out a couple movies ago that Moneypenny knows very well that Bond is screwing other chicks. And she’s staying with him. Still, if I’m correct, we haven’t seen her make a direct mention of this to Bond. So in this movie, not only does she directly mention this to 007, she also seems interested in them. You wanna know why? Here’s a direct quote from Mrs. Moneypenny herself: “How was the girl?” Are you fucking kidding me? You wanna tell her to go to the kitchen and make herself useful?....Well, Mr. Bond, you are apparently only a few steps away based on how much you discard all of her advice and materials in regards to the mission.

[SPOILERS FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH]

Oh, but this isn’t the extent of it. Her comes another girl. This is standard fair for a Bond film. She dies. This is, unfortunately, also standard fair for a Bond film. It really ticked me off in Thunderball when Fiona was used as a shield against a bullet, as it should have. But what’s in her, while much less immediate, is probably a lot worse for the image of women in movies. This second girl, named Aki, when she dies….gets replaced. You heard me right. The love interest GETS REPLACED. Am I the only one thinking that’s going too far for a Bond flick? Am I the only one who thinks it takes a real fucking sexist to write that kind of shit?...It doesn’t help when the “replacement girl” acts about 5x blander than the last one and has a name that makes Pussy Galore look like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Kissy Suzuki.

Gadgets. Always an important part of a Bond movie. Not quite as overload as in Thunderball or Goldfinger, which I find healthy, but possibly against expectations. You got the overtly classic, and by now overtly cliché, machine that listens into a safe to unlock the code. Except…this isn’t just taking a stethoscope and listening into the clicks. No this is a machine that not only uses a stethoscope but also a key panel that flashes on a certain key which the click is hit. I can see this as visual aid, but then you have to press that key…I guess so that the machine knows when to look for a new click? Honestly I don’t know how that shit works.

There’s also the projectile cigarette, which is pretty damn cool. Only thing is that it takes forever to shoot, which means that you need a still target and a way to defeat any nearby startled targets. It’s invented for an extremely specific situation and is mostly there for convenience to the script. Then there’s the Little Nellie helicopter I told you about. I don’t know exactly why it’s in the movie, it only gets used in one scene which doesn’t help advance the plot that much. But it’s really cool, especially with that full explanation that feels like an infomercial.

Not a huge fan of the writing, personally. The movie’s pacing is hurt slightly. It honestly feels like it could be reduced to ninety minutes with no loss of quality moments or story. Maybe I need an editing major to make that statement legit, but, damn it could have used a shot of adrenaline at some points. All the good dialogue happens within the first 20-40 minutes of the movie, and that’s being generous, it’s really more like 20-32. Most of the great lines are that “funny even though it shouldn’t be” kind of thing, such as the Americans claiming that Russia wants to take over ALL OF OUTER SPACE.

One of the big things in Bond movie is gonna be the environments and whether they stand out or not. In certain times they do. The shots of the volcanos are a highlight of the movie. The shots of the oceans, while nothing inventive – no hyperbole – are pretty nice. I also like the shots of space if for nothing else it’s outer space and I am pathetically afraid of it. Shots of Japan do not give me that feeling like I want to go to Japan. Maybe once or twice in the mountains. Especially when they’re ringing that giant ass bell I should learn the proper name of. But, 90% of the movie: sumo wrestling, hot Asian chicks and Japanese style décor are not gonna make me want to travel there. Ken, do better.

Now we get to the good stuff. It’s time for the villain of the movie. And this ain’t some normal villain, this ain’t some agent of SPECTRE. No, this is the big man himself. #1. Numero Uno. Chairman of the Board. Ernst. Stavro. Blofeld. This is his big reveal. This is the movie where we finally get to see his face, after at least three different movies of hiding him. (Dr. No is iffy.) This is a guy who has implanted himself into popular culture with his mythos and completely heartless moral compass. So what does he look like?...He looks like a mashup of David Draiman, Howie Mandel, Jean Luc-Picard* and Scar from Lion King…okay. I don’t…I don’t disapprove. I kind of like it. Better than a Sad Santa, I can tell you that much.

*To be fair those first three look exactly the same in their own right.

Well, what do we got, Spock? We got a James Bond movie that healthily balances the gadget usage in the shadows of two extremely successful and extremely gadget heavy films in the same series. We’ve got a cast of girls that continues the gradual decline since the first film. We’ve got a main actor who is physically at his peak and vocally at his pit. We’ve got ANOTHER David Draiman look alike. We’ve got some really crappy writing but awesome music. Overall, I think this makes a soup that is worthwhile. I would recommend it. But not heavily.

3.55/5

REACTION

You Only Live Twice premiered in London, England on the 12th of June in 1967. Queen Elizabeth II was in the audience. Pretty sick. It was released in the United States a day later. The film has made a massive, $111 Million ($752,950,179.93 2012) on a mere $10.3 Million budget. ($71,894,532.18 2012). You’re looking at over 11x the gross compared to the original budget. That’s pretty insane. And for a movie that has only gotten 71% percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and more importantly, from me.

…or did it really?

A lot of reviews from back in the day were a little less praising. James Berardinelli, a pretty damn big name in movie critics, said that the first half was good but "during the second half, as the plot escalates beyond the bounds of preposterousness, that the film starts to fragment.” He was, unlike me, not a fan of Blofeld’s appearance, and also unlike me, thought that "rockets that swallow up spacecraft are a bit too extravagant.” Honestly he has a really damn good point. What are we gonna see next? Sharks that eat dinosaurs?

*goes to Google*

…Aw fuck.

Roger Ebert also threw his hand on criticizing the gadgets, thinking that the classic 007 formula "fails to work its magic.” John Brosnan, huge fan of Bond, said that it was like watching an episode of Thunderbirds with spectacle and a ton of gadgets. Christopher Null – short for “Christopher Numbskull” - thought that is was one of “Bond’s most memorable adventures” but said that the plot was "protracting and quite confusing.” Herp derp. Ali Barclay over at BBC said that You Only Live Twice showed us "a whole new world of villainy and technology." Leo Goldsmith loved the volcanos like I did and said that they were "the most impressive of Ken Adam's sets for the franchise."

God you guys are gonna think I’m a plagiarist, between the 71%, the volcanos, and this quote from Danny Peary: "[The movie] should have been about twenty minutes shorter.” Yeah. He said that. Imma get ready to be in court, you can sue all you want, BUT NOBODY CAN BEAT DA CA$HMAN! BRING IT ON! I’M AN ALIAS! WHITE DOG POLAR BEAR UP IN THIS SHIT! YOU BETTER BE SAYING YOUR VITAMINS AND DOING YOUR MINERALS!!!!!.....He also said that it’s “not a bad Bond film, but it doesn’t compare to its predecessors – the formula had become a little stale.”

Since the days of old, IGN has listed it as the fourth best Bond movie, and Entertainment Weekly as the 2nd. Bajeezus. I can’t gather the person who wrote this was anything but a cast member of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, as he can be quoted as saying the movie "pushes the series to the outer edge of coolness.” Is that not hilarious?...I’m thinking Norman Wilner may be a little mower okay in the head, though not by much. He has ranked it as the fifth worst Bond film ever, criticizing the action scenes, the plot and Blofeld. Literary critic, of all things, Paul Simpson, of all names, apparently called the film one of the most colorful of the series. Mr. Simpson, you ever see Dr. No? He panned the depiction of Blofeld, however, calling him small, bald, and having an awesome scar. Good observations, you get a cookie. Simon Winder called it a perfect parody.

At the end, despite the extremely mixed criticism, You Only Live Twice had enough media marketing and gross to support more than ten more Bond films….boy did they do that. Let’s see if they can put any of that money into that “extravagant location scouting” we heard about before.

Next time: Purple

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Casino Royale (1967)

Banco

HER MAJESTY WHO LOVED ME

Two months before the release of Thunderball in March of 1961, Ian Fleming began work on the shortest manuscript he had created for a Bond novel, counting in at 113 pages. Due to this there aren’t such in-depth notes on the actual writing of this book, but we can presume that Fleming took from his surroundings to work with the story. One was a motel in upstate New York that became the Dreamy Pines Motel in the manuscript. He had always passed by this motel when going to Ivary Bryce’s Black Hollow Farm.

Fleming had taken some very personal inspiration. Ian had lost his virginity in the Royalty Cinema way back when. In the novel, he transformed this into Bond being seduced by the main character of the story, Vivienne Vivienne Michel. A minor character in the story got his name from a Sunday Times colleague, and another equally minor character had his name taken from Ian’s wife’s friend(‘s mother’s father’s cousin’s dog’s former roommate’s chiropractor who was an alcoholic and a race car driver.) Vivienne herself was taken from one of Fleming’s neighbors in Jamaica.

This manuscript was transformed into The Spy Who Loved Me and was released on April 16th of 1962, 50 years and a month ago. It ended up being 221 pages long at 15 shillings a piece. Richard Chopping did artwork again, raising his fee from two-hundred Guineans to two-hundred and fifty Guineas. That artwork included a commando knife known to belong to Michael Howard, an editor who worked for Jonathon Cape. It was published in The United States of America five days earlier, costing three dollars and ninety five cents, running at ten pages shorter than the English printing.

"I had become increasingly surprised to find my thrillers, which were designed for an adult audience, being read in schools, and that young people were making a hero out of James Bond ... So it crossed my mind to write a cautionary tale about Bond, to put the record straight in the minds particularly of younger readers ... the experiment has obviously gone very much awry.” – Ian Fleming

Long story short: People were pissed. "Oh Dear Oh Dear Oh Dear! And to think of the books Mr Fleming once wrote!" Said The Daily Telegraph. "His ability to invent a plot has deserted him almost entirely and he has had to substitute for a fast-moving story the sorry misadventures of an upper-class tramp, told in dreary detail" The Glasgow Herald agreed. "[It is] a new and regrettable if not altogether unreadable variation.” Continued The Observer. "I hope this doesn't spell the total eclipse of Bond in a blaze of cornography…why can't this cunning author write up a bit instead of down?".” He concluded.

The Times thought that fault lied not in Bond himself but Fleming’s experiment. “[He is] less a person than a cult, [who is] ruthlessly, fashionably efficient in both love and war…[The Spy That Loved Me]…lacks Mr. Fleming's usual careful construction and must be written off as a disappointment." The Times Literary Supplement expanded, explaining the novel to be "a morbid version of…Beauty and the Beast.” It noted that once Bond arrives on the scene to find Michel threatened by two thugs, he "solves [the problem] in his usual way. A great quantity of ammunition is expended, the zip-fastener is kept busy and the customary sexual consummation is associated with the kill…Mr. Fleming seems to have summarized in [the police captain’s] remarks some of the recent strictures on James Bond's activities."

The Listener considered the book "as silly as it is unpleasant…the worst thing about it is that it really is so unremittingly, so grindingly boring." Time Magazine tried to examine that "unaccountably lacking in The Spy Who Loved Me are the High-Stake Gambling Scene, the Meal-Ordering Scene, the Torture Scene, the battleship-grey Bentley, and Blades Club…among the shocks and disappointments 1962 still has in store ... is the discovery that the cruel, handsome, scarred face of James Bond does not turn up until more than halfway through Ian Fleming's latest book.”

Anthony Boucher didn’t even need to add his usual Bond hatred. All he said was that “the author has reached a new time low.” He then threw a copy of a magazine on the table and left, considering his mission accomplished. It was a copy of Stag, a “men’s entertainment” magazine, where The Spy Who Loved Me had been published under the name of Motel Nymph. Ian Fleming begged Jonathon Cape to suppress the novel as much as possible, seeing his apparent failure. Cape was able to suppress all future paperback printings in the United States and all paperback printings in England until Fleming’s death.

Now, after that downer, let me take you a couple months back. We’re back in Jamaica at the GoldenEye Estate and Ian Fleming is writing his next James Bond manuscript, entitled The Belles of Hell. Not only that, but HUGE things were going on practically next-door. Broccoli & Sandman Inc., aka Eon Productions, were recording the first major Bond film, Dr. No, to star Sean Connery and Ursula Andres. And we begin the process once again where Ian Fleming would draw upon many of his own experiences and friendships/partnerships to create the next 007 James Bond story.

Now we go back three decades. In the 1930’s, Fleming often visited Kitzbuhel in Austra to ski. In his own daring attitude, he once deliberately set off down a slope that had been closed down for safety reasons. Naturally the snow cracked from underneath him and an avalanche began, which he had avoided until the end of the journey. Fleming had the flashback in 1962 and decided to implement the incident as a classic Bond escape. In the same city, Fleming would occasionally stay at a local sports club. The Nazis closed this down in the 1940s in order to “study the Asiatic races.” He incorporated this into Blofeld’s pseudo-scientific center.

Hilary Bray was the name of an old and nonexistent Estonian who Fleming worked with in the stock broking firm Rowe & Pitman. Sable Basilisk was based on “Rouge Dragon” in the College of Arms. This “Rouge Dragon” being the alias of heraldic researcher Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart de la Lanne-Mirrlees. I guess you would need an alias if you had that kind of name. For Tracy’s background, Fleming had used Muriel Wright, one of Fleming’s many lovers who died during an air raid in the war. Fleming would also take some historical references for this next story. Marc-Ange Draco was taken from Sir Francis Drake’s* nickname.

*Excuse me while I play me some Uncharted.

On April Fool’s Day of 1963, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was published by Jonathon Cape. It was 288 pages long and cost 16 shillings a piece. 250 limited edition copies were hand-signed by Ian Fleming. Richard Chopping again took the objective of artwork for the first edition. There were 42,000 pre-orders for the hardback edition and after realizing that there would only be 3,000 after that, Jonathon Cape did an emergency printing of 15,000 more copies, finally printing 60,000 copies for public consumption. By the end of the year it had sold 15,000 more than that, which was seen by critics literally impossible.

Reaction to this next book was by far way more positive. The Guardian said it was "not only up to Mr. Fleming's usual level, but perhaps even a bit above it." The Observer pondered if there had been "a deliberate moral reformation [of Bond.]...in reforming Bond Mr. Fleming has reformed his own story-telling which had been getting very loose. [On Her Majesty’s Secret Service] is certainly the best Bond for several books. It is better plotted and retains its insane grip until the end.”

The Sunday Times said "James Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like between her sheets.” The Times noted that, after the last incident, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service constitutes a substantial, if not quite a complete, recovery." Probably the riskiest move that was typed in that review was when he said that "it is time, perhaps, to forget the much exaggerated things which have been said about sex, sadism and snobbery, and return to the simple, indisputable fact that Mr. Fleming is a most compelling story-teller." The Sunday does not exist.

But The Times Literary Supplement does, and they thought that "the new James Bond we've been meeting of late [is] somehow gentler, more sentimental, less dirty…[however] "it really is time to stop treating Ian Fleming as a Significant Portent, and to accept him as a good, if rather vulgar thriller-writer, well suited to his times and to us his readers." The New York Herald Tribune thought On Her Majesty's Secret Service to be "solid Fleming.” While The Houston Chronicle used the book as an exhibit of "Fleming at his urbanely murderous best, a notable chapter in the saga of James Bond.”

The Boston Globe said that "[Bond] needs all the quality he can muster to escape alive” and said that in this book it culminated in "two of the wildest chase scenes in the good guys-bad guys literature…Fleming's accounts of the half-world of the Secret Service have the ring of authenticity.”* The Washington Post called Bond "still irresistible to women, still handsome in a menacing way, still charming. He has nerves of steel and thews of whipcord, [even if] he's starting to look a little older…Fleming's new book will not disappoint his millions of fans."

*Especially considering he was in the damn thing…

"[Bond novels] are harbingers of a change in emphasis in fiction which is important." Said The Los Angeles Times. They claimed this importance came from "a revolution in taste, a return to qualities in fiction which all but submerged in the 20th-century vogue of realism and naturalism. [They are] comparable ... only to the phenomenon of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories…With Fleming... we do not merely accept the willing suspension of disbelief, we yearn for it, we hunger for it."

Bring in the Bond villains, it’s time for the recurring madman, Anthony Boucher. And he’s...kind of in a “whatever” mood. He’s thrown in his opinion. "You can't argue with success… [Yet] simply pro forma, I must set down my opinion that this is a silly and tedious novel…it is…a lazy and inadequate story…my complaint is not that the adventures of James Bond are bad literature ... but that they aren't good bad literature*…they just aren't writing bad books like they used to."*

*Now you really looking stupid.

Time Magazine looked over the series of events that had brought us this far, and noted the criticism that came about in Dr. No. They noted that "in Fleming's latest Bond bombshell, there are disquieting signs that he took the critics to heart.” When he complained about "the consumer snobbery of his caddish hero.” The critic mourned for what came to follow…"Bond is threatened with what, for an international cad, would clearly be a fate worse than death: matrimony…[eventually a] deus ex machina (the machine, reassuringly, is a lethal red Maserati) ... saves James Bond from his better self."

Out of the fire and into the frying pan, Ian Fleming still must take some massive steps before living in the cool waters again. The final chapter of Fleming’s Bond novels will be present in a review for You Only Live Twice.

 

CASINO ROYALE [PAIN IN THE ASS TO MAKE]

So there was this guy. His name was Charles F. Feldman. He helped with the Orson Welles adaptation of Macbeth. He wanted to hire a writer. His name was Wolf Mankowitz. He did a Hammer horror movie once. He had two best friends. They were named John Law and Michael Sayers. They wrote a script. Except they didn’t. Because Ben Hecht (Scarface, Gone with the Wind, His Girl Friday) also wrote it. Except he died. So then Billy Wilder wrote it. And then there was this guy named Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove, Pink Panther trilogy), didn’t like the main character’s dialogue, so he made Terry Southern work on it for him so that Peter could look like God

In that one paragraph I just wrote/you just read, Bond was replaced by an American gangster, he escaped situations by disguising himself as a lesbian mud wrestler, morals completely rewritten, book ripped apart, put together again, then ripped apart again, the inclusion of SPECTRE, hamburgers, Lil’ Wayne’s Asian cousin, women crushed by garbage trucks, death by heart attack, and a battle royal between Citizen Kane, Macbeth, Othello, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Inspector Closeau, Moby Dick, a bunch of Vikings, David, Goliath, and Triple H.

So after all of that insanity, Columbia Pictures approved $6 Million for this ambitious production, which was considered large at the time. ($41,880,310.01 in 2013 dollars.) But then a lot of shit happened. I also mentioned five different writers, but here’s actually what happened. There were three people who were strictly writers, a few writing editors, and a whopping THIRTEEN people who ended up working as director or writer during production. This list included a crazy amount of famous names, adding on to what I’ve already talked about, we can add this list:

Val Guest (the first two Quatermass movies), Joseph Heller (Catch-22 novel), Ken Hughes, John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, Moulin Rouge, Moby Dick, The Unforgiven, The Misfits) Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Richard Tallmadge (How the West was Won, The Greatest Story Ever Told) and, you guessed it, the man responsible for bringing us What’s Up Tiger Lily, Everything You Always Wanted to know about Sex*, The Purple Rose of Cairo, King Lear, Hollywood Ending…Woody Allen.

*But were afraid to ask 

Now I hear you asking “Ca$hman, why in the blue fuck did this happen?” I’ll tell you why. Everybody hated each other. I want you to get a piece of paper. Follow these steps. First, write a blank. Then add an apostrophe with an s afterwards. Then press the spacebar and write the word “edits destroyed.” Then repeat the first two steps. Then finally write “script” followed by a period. Take any two of the mentioned names that wrote or directed partially, and you can do this with practically any combination. “Woody Allen’s edits destroyed Val Guest’s script.” For example.

But that wasn’t it. There was plenty of acting feuds as well. Peter Sellers, for instance, was intensely intimidated by directing and acting legend Orson Welles. Besides a couple exceptions, Sellers did his best to make sure they were never on set simultaneously. But things got worse from there. Princess Margaret, who Sellers knew personally, came onto set to pay him a visit but ended up being far more fascinated by Mr. Welles. Orson insisted on a magic trick for the Princess, and nobody vocally objected. According to Val Guest, Orson was extremely pretentious in regards to Peter Sellers. Val said that he refused to work with “that amateur.”

Some biographies also state that Peter took the role of James Bond to heart and wanted to portray him straight and serious, but unfortunately the one he got hired for was a comedy. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, a 2004 biographical movie based on a Roger Lewis biography capitalized on this for drama. According to Roger, Peter continued to improvise and rewrite (have Terry Southern rewrite) so that he could play him as seriously as possible. It seems to be the case, as the scenes that are close to the book are the ones involving Sellers and Welles, whom Sellers was attempting to fight with acting wise.*

*Actually, he may have straight up beat the shit out of him.

Out of nowhere Peter Sellers left production. Now we’re really in a jam. There were several stories about Seller’s absence, some say he quit and some say he was fired, and I’m more inclined to believe the former. The fact that he was so upset with Welles suggests the former, yet it is fair to say that he often missed filming sessions out of apathy, which could lead to him being fired. Because of this, he was not available to film the ending to the movie, which is why the resolution comes so abruptly.

They went through many tricks. They “invented” framing techniques which helped to imply Bond was present even when Sellers wasn’t on set. The script was connected by the Vesper character and Val Guest hiring MORE writers to work on the continuity. In the calmer scenes at the end, a cardboard cutout of Peter Sellers was used in the background of the scenes. Since then, a scene of Bond in a highland dress have been inserted using “trick photography.” In the movie, there are several scenes where it’s apparent that this series of events would be different with Sellers on set, but fortunately they aren’t the most distracting things in this existence.

In the end the budget wound up becoming TWICE the original. Twelve million dollars. According to my earlier calculation, this should be $83,760,620.02 in modern dollars. Keep in mind that Columbia was already hesitant to give out the original budget. Also keep in mind that Thunderdome, a movie part of the Eon series, which at its release had the highest budget of a Bond movie, was a million dollars short. ($6,980,051.67 short.) The movie was called a “runaway Cleopatra” and probably had Columbia prepared to fire half of their staff. So ugh…did all that effort and hatred come out with anything good?

ROYALE REVIEW

You know I have absolutely no idea. I mean, sure, it happened. But I do not what?

If I take only one thing away from this piece of cinema, it’s that I don’t believe I have had quite a similar experience and I won’t for a while. So what is it? It is a collection of scenes that have either no jokes or jokes of a very crude nature, almost always banking on paranoia, death or sex. Obviously I can’t be against jokes using these, as they are some of the most usable material. But when every death in a movie with an apparent body count is humorous, then we’ve got some moral issues here. There are legitimately multiple jokes where the punch line can be summarized as “haha, he’s dead!” There might be one joke that isn’t of a bad morale, that being at the very beginning with extremely long codenames. Everything else attempts to be humorous but ends up being rather depressing. And if it’s not depressing, it’s giving us a boner. Oh wait, that wasn’t a joke? That was just trying to sell them movie? Kay, filing it under “Hollywood junk.”

Now you would think with a cast as amazing as this, there would be a good result in the acting pool. And…it could be worse. Basically each and every character in this movie is extremely single layered. The old man, the awkward spy, the hot chick, the how many other awkward guys, the how many other hot chicks….just a bunch of over recycled cardboard cutout characters with no depth. That said, the people of Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, Ursula Undress, Woody Allen, Deborah Ker, and many more awesome names put their best efforts toward giving color, energy and personality in wherever it can fit. They make a huge improvement on the script with their acting but unfortunately not enough to make me give a damn about them or what is going on.

Speaking of which, what the Hell is going on? From what I gathered, shit happens. A lot of shit happens. And there’s this big plot twist at the end but….no. The plot twist should have been the exposition. The entire movie is just a series of events that are improvised to be related at the last second of the movie. The expositions is the twist ending. I mean, do I need to explain to you why that’s bad? Even the protagonists in film admit to the fact that “we have some sort of motivation, and that motivation is figuring out what our motivation is!” Somebody needs a class in scriptwriting.

Ummm…what else is there? Music? Music’s crap. Recycled and rehashed from much older American and British comedies. The look of the film?...Oh Jesus. If you ever had a fever/acid dream as a very young child you should be able to get it. There are a lot of colors that are…how do I explain…deep but faded? I guess? Here, I’ll just show you one of my screen captures after this paragraph and you can judge for yourself. There’s a lot of classic 60’s/70’s trippy effects too, way too many trippy swirl items but those also seemed extremely faded. Like if it ran out of battery?

Now I’m about to present my biggest problem. We’ve already established that the movie is painfully slow due to an ironic laugh of exposition. You would think this kind of movie would have too much of it? So when we come to the climax, we’re already tragically uninterested. But then the most unfortunate thing comes about. We get the most AMAZING set-up for an action scene that could have possibly come out of the minds of this type of crew. Long in the short of it is, you know how many people were in that fake battle royal I mentioned? Or how many people were involved in making the movie? Combine the two and cube the sum. It’s fucking intense.

We have here a showcase featuring James Bond, a ton of other apprentices taking upon the name James Bond, a walking time bomb, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, six or seven dozen cowboys, an army of airborne stereotypical Indians, a silent black and white French army, SMERSH, MI6, a couple of sea lions, a miniature UFO, a million bubbles (those are fatal if Robot Monster is worth anything), and a dog fighting with fire, backwards guns, bows and arrows, horses, jars, and of course actually working machine guns fighting in a casino with a countdown to extinction all while Metallica pla---wait, never mind that last part, that’s just me.

Guess how that amazing action scene goes? Just a bunch of racial jokes and an excuse to play a remix of Yakety Sax. Casino Royale legitimately had a chance to be awesome. If executed in an almost entirely reversed fashion, the premise would have provided tons of interest. There are tons of talented people working here and I don’t need to restate them. But man…the jokes are just so awful and so depressing, I mean there is good dark humor out there but man this is not a good example. It’s just…ugh. I can’t imagine recommending it to somebody. I mean, you could do worse. It didn’t piss me off. I was having no problem giving it a fair chance throughout the film but it was just not gooooood. Dooon’t waaaatch iiiiiiiiit…2/5

[PISS POOR] REACTION

Writing in 1986, Danny Peary noted, "It's hard to believe that in 1967 we actually waited in anticipation for this so-called James Bond spoof. It was a disappointment then; it's a curio today, but just as hard to get through." Peary described the film as being "disjointed and stylistically erratic" and "a testament to wastefulness in the bigger-is-better cinema," before adding, "It would have been a good idea to cut the picture drastically, perhaps down to the scenes featuring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. In fact, I recommend you see it on television when it's in a two-hour (including commercials) slot. Then you won't expect it to make any sense.”

Now here’s the kicker. Throughout the years, this film has gradually gained more and more praise from critics. Now consider the review above was 21 years later. It would probably take twice that time for a single positive review to show up. The film, despite the awful reaction, was a financial success and resulted in Columbia Pictures not killing everybody who was involved in the picture. Which would have been an expensive venture anyhow. The movie made $41.7 Million on its extreme $12 Million budget. According to modern dollars, the profit measures in at $207,239,379.98. That’s a nice chunk of change.

Orson Welles went on record saying the only reason the movie was so successful was because of marketing. The fact that the posters and trailers featured a nude lady covered in tie-die tattoos this brought both a sex appeal and a visual appeal that can be connected to today’s audience’s fascination with computer effects. Not to mention, it’s James Bond, and all those actors aren’t just nothing. There’s a ton to go into this marketing. Nevertheless the DVD should feature critical lines as "a pitiful spoof" and "an abstraction of real life" which is how the critics reacted. Leonard Maltin remarked "Money, money everywhere, but [the] film is terribly uneven - sometimes funny, often not."

Couldn’t agree with you more Lenny.

The film now stands with a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 17% from “top critics” and a general consensus of "A goofy, dated parody of spy movie cliches, Casino Royale squanders its all-star cast on a meandering, mostly laugh-free script." Man, this movie had SO MUCH going for it. All those awesome filmmakers, all those awesome actors, a really good and extremely popular source material, and a gargantuan budget. It could have been so amazing. It could’ve legitimately beat the Eon films. But it didn’t.It ended up being awful. It feels like…it feels like the kind of movie that needs a remake…*

*Mwuhahaha

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: One and Another 007

 

Longitude 78 West (1965)

Also known as Thunderball.

THE NOVEL

The story of the ninth entry into the James Bond literary series begins in 1958, around the release of Dr. No. Ian Fleming, relaxing in his Jamaican estate, was talking to Ivar Bryce, and the subject of a James Bond movie came to mind. This is when Kevin McCorly blew up the door, jumped into the house, and caused all the Goth demons of Hell to rise into Jamaica. Ian “baked” some brownies and everybody calmed down. Stoned out of their mind, Ian Fleming, Ivar Bryce and Kevin (who had small production roles in The African Queen, Moulin Rouge, Anna Karina and Around the World in Eighty Days) formed Xanadu Productions.

Ian Fleming, Ernie Cuneo, Ivar Bryce and Kevin McClory met at Bryce’s house only to evacuate to McClory’s house when he unleashed the power of Ozzy Osbourne and Twiggy Ramirez upon their pour, unfortunate asses. Kevin’s house levitated on top of an airplane full of soon-to-be washed up celebrities like Hulk Hogan, Orson Welles, Michael Jackson, George Harrison, Tom Hanks, James Earl Jones, Larry King, Danny DeVito, Neil Patrick Harris, Mel Brooks, Phil Collins, Patrick Stewart, Sting, and every member of Aerosmith, Green Day, Blink-182 and Metallica.*

*Could you tell I just looked up List of Guest Stars on The Simpsons after a while?

MFCrly wanted to have a focus on the underwater world. He was fascinated by it and always wanted to make a movie about it. This was the first point in a series of long arguments that lead to ten different scripts, outlines and treatments. They all had different titles, such as SPECTRE, James Bond of the Secret Service, and as mentioned in the title of this review, Longitude 78 West. While Fleming, Bryce and Ernie finished the first official draft of the script, Kevin debuted his new film, The Boy and the Bridge, which was received with extreme hate especially the part where he raises Kurt Cobain from the dead.

The first script of this project originally had the Russians being the villains, before the Sicilian Mafia replacing them and finally choosing SPECTRE over anything else. Note that this would be the first time SPECTRE would be featured in a Bond novel, as both From Russia with Love had featured SMERSH over SPECTRE in its literary form. Both Kevin McColour and Ian Fleming claim to the creation of the organization, though most agree that Fleming did it. "[Fleming] proposed that Bond should confront not the Russians but SPECTRE ..." Andrew Lycett said in regards to this.

John Cork would note a memo sent by Ian Fleming that said “My suggestion on (b) is that SPECTRE, short for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, is an immensely powerful organi[z]ation armed by ex-members of SMERSH, the Gestapo, the Mafia, and the Black Tong of Peking, which is placing these bombs in N.A.T.O. bases with the objective of then blackmailing the Western powers for £100 million or else.” John also noted that Fleming had used the term spectre before, in extremely vague references during Diamonds are Forever.

What can be credited to McickeyDee and Whittingham (where he came into the picture nobody knows) include theft of a nuclear bomb, Jo Petatchi and his sister. The script would be worked between a two-year collaboration between Ian Fleming, Jack Whittingham, Ivar Bryce, Ernest Cuneo and Kevin McDonaldHadAFarm before it was officially retired, when Kevin McAbrahamaLincoln visited Ian Fleming at his Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica, when they talked about delivering the script to MCA, who had a previous beef with Kevin McBrideofFrankenstein. They knew that if they were to do it, Kevin McAlexanderTheGreat would have to either sell his soul to the devil or sell his soul to something much worse – an attorney.

The project retired, with a ton of sad faces and nostalgic AC/DC songs playing. But as soon as Kevin McCormickeymouse exited the house with all of his washed up celebrity demons from Hell, Ian Fleming immediately began adapting the script they had devise into another James Bond novel now finally entitled Thunderball. He drew from many of his own experiences, like he had for many other of his novels. The health clinic scene was derived from his own 1955 trip to the Enton Hall health farm. Bond’s medical record is a slightly altered version of Fleming’s own.

The health farm’s name, Shurblands, was taken from a house owned by the parents of one of Fleming’s good friends, Sir Peter Courtney Quencell. Fleming dedicated an entire quarter of the story to an area centered on this hospital, suggesting a sentimentalism with the naturalist cures that Bond undergoes. Bond’s examination of the hull of the Disco Volante was inspired by the ill-fated mission taken by Froggman Buster Crab on April 19th of 1956 on behalf of MI6, as he examined the hull of the Ordzhonikidze that had brought two important Russian figures on a diplomatic matter to Brittan. Nobody was ever seen again.<----------------------------The Ordzhonikidze

Fleming recalled the 10th Light Flotilla for this scene, an elite unit of Italian Italian navy frogmen who used wrecked ships in Gibraltar to launch attacks on Allied shipping. The specifications for the Disco Volante herself had been obtained by Fleming from the Italian ship designer, Leopold Rodriguez.  As happened with nearly every other story in this series, Ian Fleming got some names from people he had known in the past. One of the more minor borrowings came from his colleague at the somehow still existent Sunday Times, Robert Harling. He was transferred to being Commissioner of Police Heading.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s name partially came from Tom Blofeld, a Norfolk farmer and a former member of Fleming’s club Boodle’s, not to mention a contemporary at Eton. Should be noted that Tom Blofeld’s nephew is Henry Blofeld, who you will probably know of if you are a very boring English person. Fleming also took a name from Ivar Bryce AGAIN. Blofeld in the book rents a villa from “An Englishman named Bryce.” A stockbroker from Ian’s past named Hugo Pitman became Chief of Immigration in the book, and another one of Elming’s golfing buddies, Bunny Roddick, became Deputy Governor Roddick.

Ian Fleming had finished the next Bond novel, entitled Thunderball, which he named after a discussion he had about nuclear tests. He sent advanced copies to Ernie Cuneo, Jack Whittingham, Ivar Bryce and Kevin McDanielBryanDanielson. When that last man got a hold of the book, he immediately petitioned the High Court of London to stop the publication of the novel. The case was heard on March 24th of 1961 and allowed the book to be published, which Ian Fleming and Jonathon Cape proceeded to do three days later, lengthened 253 pages and costing 15 shillings a piece.

<--------------------------------------Original Artwork by Richard Chopping

Ian firstly gave the task of cover art to Richard Chopping, saying "I will ask [Jonathan Cape] to produce an elegant skeleton hand and an elegant Queen of Hearts. As to the dagger, I really have no strong views. I had thought of the ordinary flick knife as used by teenagers on people like you and me, but if you have a nice dagger in mind please let us use it. The title of the book will be Thunderball. It is immensely long, immensely dull and only your jacket can save it!" He also sent Richard Chopping a 200 guinea fee, which really did help convince the dude.

Jonathan Cape spent £2,000 (£33,169 in modern pounds) in advanced publicity. He had sent out one hundred and thirty copies to critics to review it in advance as well as making sure 32,000 copies were sent to 864 major United Kingdom bookstores and 604 outside of that nation. 50,938 copies were printed in total and, as following the patterns, quickly sold out. In the United States under Viking Press it sold better than any other previous James Bond book. Despite Fleming’s predictions, the book was immensely popular and very well received by critics.

The Guardian wrote that Thunderball "is a good, tough, straightforward thriller on perfectly conventional lines." The critic, named Francis Iles, was left wondering why everybody was so upset with the morals of James Bond that was brought up during the release of Dr. No. She said "there is no more sadism nor sex than is expected of the author of this kind of thriller."* The Financial Times added to her argument, saying "one should not make a cult of Fleming's novels: a day-dream is a day-dream; but nor should one make the mistake of supposing he does not know what he is doing."

*Nice. Very good taste.

Peter Duval Smith called Thunderball "an exciting story is skilfully told, [with] a romantic sub-plot ... and the denouement involves great events.” He also considered it "the best written since Diamonds are Forever, four books back. It has pace and humour and style. The violence is not so unrelenting as usual: an improvement, I think.” He also expressed concern for the central character, saying "I was glad to see him [Bond] in such good form. Earlier he seemed to be softening up. He was having bad hangovers on half-a-bottle of whisky a day, which I don't call a lot, unless he wasn't eating properly."

Phillip Stead thought that Fleming "continues uninhibitedly to deploy his story-telling talents within the limits of the Commander Bond formula." Stead saw that the hijacking of the two bombs "gives Bond some anxiety but, needless to say, does not prevent him from having a good deal of fun in luxury surroundings,” whilst "the usual beatings-up, modern style, are ingeniously administered to lady and gentleman like". As to why the novels were so appealing, Stead considered that "Mr. Fleming's special magic lies in his power to impart sophistication to his mighty nonsense; his fantasies connect with up-to-date and lively knowledge of places and of the general sphere of crime and espionage." Overall, Stead's opinion, with Thunderball, was that"the mixture, exotic as ever, generates an extravagant and exhilarating tale and Bond connoisseurs will be glad to have it."

The critic for The Times wrote in his review that Thunderball "relies for its kicks far less than did Dr. No or Goldfinger on sadism and a slightly condescending sophistication." The upshot, in the critic's opinion, was that "the mixture—of good living, sex and violent action—is as before, but this is a highly polished performance, with an ingenious plot well documented and plenty of excitement." The mixed reviews for the book started after this, writing in The Washington Post, Harold Kneeland noted that Thunderball was "Not top Fleming, but still well ahead of the pack.”

Charles Poore, writing in The New York Times* considered the Bond novels to be "post-Dostoevskian ventures in crime and punishment.” Thunderball he found to be "a mystery story, a thriller, a chiller and a pleasure to read." Poore identified aspects of the author's technique to be part of the success, saying "the suspense and the surprises that animate the novel arise from the conceits with which Mr. Fleming decorates his tapestry of thieving and deceiving.”  In hometown, The Sunday Times said "[Fleming has] a sensational imagination, but informed by style, zest and—above all—knowledge.”

Anthony Boucher, described as the first real-life Bond villain - to be followed by Kevin McClorly and Bernard Borgonzi - said that "As usual, Ian Fleming has less story to tell in 90,000 words than Buchan managed in 40,000; but Thunderball is still an extravagant adventure.” He was ironically not the most harsh on the book, that honor would belong to The Daily Herald, and this is their quote: "Hey!—that man is taking his clothes off again. So is the girl ... Can anybody stop this? Unfortunately not. Not this side of the best-seller lists. I don't envy Mr Bond's wealthy creator, Ian Fleming. I wish I could pity him.”

During the original copyright lawsuit hearing for Thunderball, a man who may be considered a double-crosser real life Bond villain, vowed that “[this isn’t the last you’ve seen of me!]” That man could only be known as Kevin McGeenuisWorldRecord. He had received permission to persecute at a later date after his immediate loss in 1961. He did so on the 19th of November in the year 1963. This is the thing that stopped Thunderball from being made and caused Goldfinger to land as the third in the original trilogy of Bond movies, and possibly caused something much worse.

The second case was heard at the Chancery Division of the High Court of England, a struggle which lasted three weeks. The case climaxed with Ian Fleming having a heart attack during the hearing. Nobody in that room was not left shocked and Kevin agreed settle the deal out of court with the publishers and Ivar Bryce….unfortunately what this meant was that, to the disappointment of many Fleming fans, and most notably Eon Productions, Kevin McHippopotomonstrosesquippedaliAOOOOOHphobia gained the literary and film rights to the book and the screenplay.

Ivar Bryce reported that Ian Fleming, out of pure necessity, "…ultimately admitted '[t]hat the novel reproduces a substantial part of the copyright material in the film scripts'; '[t]hat the novel makes use of a substantial number of the incidents and material in the film scripts'; and '[t]hat there is a general similarity of the story of the novel and the story as set out in the said film scripts'." The book, when it was published, was still required to be credited as "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and the Author.”

On 12 August 1964, nine months after the conclusion of the trial, Fleming suffered a further heart attack and died at the age of 56.

REST IN PEACE, IAN LANCHASTER FLEMING, 28 MAY 1908 – 12 AUGUST 1964. YOU LIVED ONCE, BOND LIVED TWICE, BUT YOUR IMPACT LIVES ETERNALLY.

The concluding chapters of Ian Fleming’s contribution to the James Bond series will occur during reviews for Casino Royale (1967) and You Only Live Twice.

PRODUCTION

With a miserable clearing of the legal trouble over Thunderball, Broccoli & Sandman Inc. (also known as Eon Productions) took this opportunity to adapt the book they had wanted to adapt ever the uber success of From Russia with Love. For the fourth/fifth entry in the James Bond franchise they kept nearly the entirety of their previous pre-production crew and re-casted the recurring characters over again with the same figures. In pre-pro, they had re-acquired Terrence Young* and unfortunately added Kevin onto the producers line (more on that later.) In casting the new Bond Girl, Julie Christi (Doctor Zhivago, Troy) was the first choice after Broccoli saw her performance in Billy Liar. She turned out to be a bitch and was pushed off the dinner plate.

*Good decision, seeing that Goldfinger is not up to the material of Dr. No and From Russia with Love.

Raquel Welch (One Million Years B.C., Three Musketeers, Naked Gun 33 1/3rd) was the next entre in mealtime, after her appearance no Life Magazine. She was unfortunately booked in the film The Fantastic Voyage already. Faye Dunaway (Supergirl, Anonymous Rex) was also considered and almost signed on but was more than likely assassinated. Sandman and Broccoli interviewed tons of people for the role including unknown European models and Yvonne Monlaur of none other than the H2F* Brides of Dracula. Claudine Auger was finally chosen as the new James Bond girl, and her character was reworked to be French instead of Italian. She would be cast again in Terrence Young’s next film, Triple Cross. Luciana Paluzzi, who had tried out to be the next Bond girl, was casted as a femme fatale assassin.

*Hammer Horror Film for those who didn’t follow The Drankenstein Manathon.

Like I had mentioned before, Terrence Young had thankfully returned to the series instead of Guy Hamilton, who doesn’t possess quite the honesty in his charm. It should be mentioned this is the craziest thing of fate, as when he was originally interviewed for the first movie, he said that he wanted to direct three Bond books: Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball. He said, years and years later, that Thunderball was filmed at the right time, because if it was the first one they did, they would have had the budget of $1 Million, and that would have sucked.

Filming commenced quickly, specifically on February 16th of 1965. Filming started in Paris, France, for the opening scene, and moved to several different locations in France such as Chateau d’Anet near Dreux. After the early scenes they moved to film in The Bahamas where the majority of the film would be…filmed.*Filmed underwater to be specific. The rest of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios and surrounding areas including Buckinghamshire and the Silverstone Racing Circuit before finishing up once again in the Bahamas.

*My person requires further advancement of his inadequate glossary that is currently being amplified by an online thesaurus-rex.

During one of the last scenes shot in the Bahamas, Kevin McCock looked for some goddamn mansions and wound up finding the Sullivan’s estate, the homer of two millionaires. They used this house to be used as for Largo’s estate. Another millionaire’s home was used for the SPECTRE underwater assault. Those kinds of scenes, underwater scenes, were the hardest to film and shot at a depth of 50 feet most of the time. The first to be shot (meaning the hardest) was the one where SPECTRE agents dive to remove an atom bomb from the sunken Vulcan bomber.

Peter Lamont (the regular set guy who worked no almost every James Bond movie) had snuck onto Royal Air Force bomber stations to get close-ups of secretive missiles for the film, using a concealed camera. Sean Connery, on the other hand, didn’t give a damn about any of this, he was fighting for his life against some damn sharks. Most scenes underwater were filmed at low tide to avoid sharks in general, but when he was forced to be with sharks in Largo’s pool, he had been damn terrified and justifiably. He begged Ken Adams to build a Plexiglas protection, which he did, but this did nothing because a beach is not a fixed structure and the shark was all light “I’M HAVING BOND TONIGHT!”

Connery escaped barely, seconds away from attack. He thought it was over, but nah. John Stears brought in a living shark that he claimed was a dead carcass to be towed around the pool. The shark revived while it was being towed around the pool. Thus they stole all of John Stears’s money and threw him into a pool of sharks and maybe an allosaurus to be devoured. The final underwater fight would be shot at Clifton Pier and choreographed by Ricou Browning, also known as the one and only Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The man has been charged with the responsibility of staging the cave sequence of this movie as well as the battle scenes beneath the Disco Volante and called in his specialist team of divers who posed as those engaged in the onslaught. Voit, a sporting goods company, provided much of the underwater sportswear in exchange for a product placement and a tie-in to the film with merchandise. This is the part where I play the obligatory Spaceballs scene that you’ve seen and recited eleventy bajillion times.

Lamar Boren, an underwater photographer, was brought in to shoot all the underwater sequences. US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Russhorn, who had worked with the crew on From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, was their watchdog and supplied the experimental rocket fuel. This rocket fuel was spread all over the yaht by a very, very stupid John Stears, whom proceeded to detonate it from a distance away. As a result, the entire nation of The Bahamas was annihilated. Due to his position, the Colonel was able to rescue everybody who was blown to smithereens by the witchery of John Stears using the surface-to-air recovery system.

Near the end of filming, Sean Connery was becoming impressively annoyed with how much press intrusion was being committed on the project, especially when it came to questions regarding his 32 wives. The paparazzi followed him into the shark cage as he unconsciously strolled, running for his life on the way back, which caused the paparazzi to be devoured by the sharks. This did not mean an end to the worst things in the world for celebrities, however, for we all know they are bacteria and thus reproduced asexually.

"I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don't intend to undergo that metamorphosis." In the end Connery only gave one single interview to Playboy magazine at the tail end of filming, turning down a giant paycheck to appear on NBC’s The Incredible World of James Bond. Filming ceased in May 1965 and the editing process began, which was mostly smooth, but caused the film to be delayed three months if they wanted it to be quality material.

Now John Stears may have been an idiot in all respects, but you gotta admit it was a pretty good idea to give Bond a water cannon and a rocket belt from the Bell Aircraft Corporation. Mmm, those are some good sponsers. That rocket belt actually worked to some extent and was used for showing off a lot of times, including at the very first Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers, in which the latter beat the former 35-10. (A time when there was more than one major football company in the nation.)

Bond, the rich bastard, got a spear-gun armed underwater jet pack. This allowed the frogmen in the scene to be able to move faster [pokey] throughout the water. In the underwater scenes, green mist was originally intended to be Bond’s smoke screen, but ended up being used purely for dramatic purposes. The sky hook, another one of 007’s handy gadgets, was a legitimate United States military rescue system at that time. However something that didn’t really have a real-life counterpart was the rebreather which Bond uses, which has been the subject of debate for a while, due to the fact that most of the implausible tech was somewhat based in reality.

Turns out that the thing was made with two carbon dioxide bottles glued together and painted, with a small mouthpiece attached. In reality, a rebreather could not be so small for there would be no room for a breathing bag. The open-circuit alternate scuba release air bubbles, while the film version does not. (Odd production decision seeing that would add a little visual flare to a movie.) The Royal Corps of Engineers would respond with a smart ass remark every time they were asked how long you could breathe underwater with that device. Their remark being As long as you can hold your breath."

Maurice Binder (uncredited) was hired to design the title sequence. As Thunderball was the first James Bond film shot in Panavision, Binder had to reshoot the iconic gun barrel scene which permitted him to not only incorporate pinhole photographic techniques to shoot inside a genuine gun barrel, but also made Connery appearing in the sequence for the first time a reality, as stunt man Bob Simmons had doubled for him in the three previous films. Binder gained access to the tank at Pinewood which he used to film the silhouetted title girls who appeared naked in the opening sequence, which was the first time actual nudity (although concealed) had ever been seen in a Bond film.

Parts of the climactic sequence on board the Disco Volante were sped up in editing to make the boat look as if it was going much faster than it was. In addition, some shots were repeated. During the hand-to-hand combat, one shot of the boat (sped up) is of Bond and Domino about to jump overboard, but cuts back to the fight. This same shot appears again at normal speed when Bond and Domino jump overboard.

Continuing the trend that would be continued for many more Bond movies to come, John Barry returned to compose for this movie. The original title song he created, entitled “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” was taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 that nickname. The title theme was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse; the song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, and later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick, whose version was not released until the 1990s. The song was removed from the title credits after producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Sandman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond film would not work well if the song did not have the title of the film in its lyrics.*

*Oh and Goldfinger was such a good theme song.

John Barry continued to team with Don Black to write the song “Thunderball,” which was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song's final note. Jones said of it, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning." Lastly but not least, it should be proved that somebody was being a complete idiot during production because they refused to use Johnny Ca$h’s song also titled Thunderball. Idiots.

REVIEW

Since this marathon began – Hell, since I began to plan this marathon – I never anticipated the plot of a James Bond movie being rather slow. Especially one that was originally built as a screenplay. But alas sometimes the old saying rings true. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” ….wait, not that one. I think it’s “Anything can happen when you fall asleep on a subway.” ….No…Let’s say “if a bear shits in the woods, could anybody find it?” That’s it, right? No? What about “Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?” Yeah, I think it’s going to be that one.

Well as the actual saying goes, “there’s a first time for anything.” Sounds like Rule 34 to me. This movie tries to do something in the first forty minutes where the conflict introduces itself instead of having one of the characters flat out explain it. It’s a nice idea, would make the movie more credible. Instead what they do is start the process but waaaaaaaay too slow during the first thirty-five minutes, having a couple scenes that start to show the conflict but mostly irrelevant action scenes. If it makes up for anything those scenes were pretty cool, back when they choreographed action like it was actually happening instead of the characters going into a ballerina.

Wouldn’t you know it, after those thirty-forty minutes they just give up and explain it to the audience. You know I don’t consider myself an expert writer but if I had a say in this I would have accepted a delay in production so that the script could have re-written that first act. First thing I would probably do is cut out repeat scenes. Underwater fighting is not that dynamic since the water slows you down. Maybe I’m detached from the times, maybe at the time underwater scenes were the biggest thing ever because of the technology required, but I believe that aspect of the movie is overrated. If I didn’t get to cut those parts I would most certainly cut out the two scenes where MI6 restates the conflict – the two specific scenes that happen after the first one.

I know you’re not Scorsese but could you please treat the audience with a tiny little bit of class like you did before? And you know what else I would do? I’d do a lot of rewriting so that there’s more tension building. A lot of the movie concerns Bond having fun, being himself and spying on SPECTRE instead of SPECTRE holding England ransom and Bond attempting to stop it. This is usually reserved for the beginning parts only where Bond is usually interrupted from his vacations to be assigned his missions. I swear if you were a really creative editor you could rework this into an hour long TV special entitled “James Bond on Vacation.” Hell, screw it, on the .0000000000029% chance that there’s a film professor reading this, could you please assign this project to your students? That would make my day dude…possibly chick.

A critic reviewing Goldfinger had pointed out that Bond was increasingly becoming reliant on gadgets over girls. I must say (s)he was right on the matter of the gadgets, but over wit. With the introduction of stuff like jetpacks and impossibly small rebreathers, we lost room for Bond’s wit amongst scenes where he would already have to rely on objects of force or technology. You know, am I the only one who finds it a wee bit out of character when Bond stabs a dude? And then there’s stuff where he just doesn’t seem as smart as he used to. There’s three scenes in this movie where he falls for the same trick. I won’t spoil what it is because it’s fucking hilarious; it’s the funniest thing in a Bond movie since the goddamn tarantula.

About the women. After Dr. No the girls have been becoming increasingly more and more bland, and I don’t know if it’s the evil sexist on my right shoulder or the feminist on my left who wants to see these women represented with personality. Domino is often referenced as the main bond girl in this movie, and while she does play the biggest part in the plot out of any woman in this movie, I would actually argue that Fiona Volpe – a SPECTRE agent – is the lady who steals the show; she definitely has the most class and humor. The scene where she drives a car at 100 mph in the middle of nowhere with nobody chasing her was freaking great. It could have done with Bond freaking out or the car toppling over but it still put a smile on my face.

It feels like the role that the girls play in relation to Bond has really gone down lately. In the first two movies – Hell, you could easily make an argument for first three movies – Bond was all about being suave and getting the girls because he was Bond. Obviously that helped him in the missions but that was not his motivation, what made men want to be him so bad was that he just got pussy because fuck you I’m Bond. James Bond. Now it’s more about strategy and less about the emotion. I got really sick of how Bond acted when he…[SPOILER]--------------used Fiona as a shield against an assassin.

Adolfo Celi (Murders in the Rue Morgue) is cast as the main villain. He has a satisfactory voice and a really good way with blocking and dialogue, not to mention his similarities to the commander of SPECTRE, Number One. To be fair he is Number Two so he better act like his boss. They way this company sees their employees as completely expendable tools who can be thrown out after just one failure is really dark and gives you the impression that this army is endless. But…nothing else does. Seriously this army has to be limited; it’s not even connected to a major government. What’s gonna happen when they realize they killed all their guys just because they lost their temper too much?

…Oh and one more thing about the villain. I know this movie is too old for this to be an issue at the time of release and I won’t hold it against him, but do be prepared not to take him seriously. Why? Because he looks like Leslie Neilson if he was a pirate. I rest my case.

Let’s talk about the mood of this film. In Dr. No there was definitely a huge tropical theme. I mean they slammed you with it. The scenery is so beautiful, especially on Blu-Ray, I was ready to buy a ticket to Florida right there. From Russia with Love had a big international feel, taking place in multiple countries, giving you a bigger sense of importance. In Goldfinger you always felt like you were in some rich person’s mansion. So instead of trying to make this movie with an overtly scientific element which is what I would personally suggest, they just kinda mesh the moods of the previous three movies. It really doesn’t know what it wants to be, just trying to say “This is a James Bond movie!” Instead of “This is Thunderball.” Not to mention since we’ve seen all these moods before, it feels a little bland. A “we’ve seen this before” kind of feeling. I still love the pool with the sharks and the coral reefs and what not but all three predecessors had attempted to bring something new and this does not.

I already discussed that the underwater scenes were tedious and overload, not to mention you’d have a bit of hard time telling who’s who because everybody is wearing scuba gear. It would probably be redundant to say the underwater photography as a visual is absolutely stunning, winning the movie an Oscar for best effects. But can I say that one of the dumbest editing decision I’ve eeeeeeever seen was made during the climax of this movie? THEY PUT THEA ACTION IN FAST MOTION. Who does that shit? You PUT THE ACTION IN FAST MOTION. Is this a cartoon? Is this a kid’s movie? I don’t think it is with all the sex and murder involved. Not to mention there’s even scenes where they have the greenscreen be fast motion but the actors be normal speed. HOW?!?! It is one of the most clunky and unnatural looking suspense scenes I’ve seen and I’d hope that aren’t too many critics who disagree with me – God save us all if they can provide better examples.

Felix Leiter is in this movie? Since when? I didn’t notice. I only saw that really boring old dude with the sunglasses.

Thunderball is the worst of the Bond films so far. There’s a good premise and a lot of talented people working on the movie but it feels so incredibly rushed. Between the literally unbelievable effects, the apparent degrading of Bond’s character, the absolute mess of a script, a muffled mood, a boring Bond girl, and the tedious underwater scenes, the main villain, his henchwoman, and the land action scenes cannot shine. You know if you’re looking for a brain killer of an action movie for whatever reason, there’s enough reasons to watch this. It’s not a horrible movie, and damn if it wasn’t an extremely important one. I personally was a big fan of the sharks. But it’s so incredibly rushed and most people agree it can only be summarized with one word – forgettable. 3/5

 

AFTERMATH

Thunderball premiered on the 9th of December, 1965. The earnings were HUGE. Variety reported that it was the biggest movie of that year by a giant margin. $26,500,000 was its net profit, $11,500,000 above Doctor Zhivago, the second biggest money maker. (To put those numbers in perspective: $190,335,538.91 for Thunderball and $107,737,097.50 for Dr. Zhivago.) At the end of 1966 the movie had made $63.6 Million ($443,931,286.08) or 58.1 Millikon admissions. After re-releases since, it has made $141,200,000, - A BILLION DOLLARS in modern buying power - in other words a shit ton of money, which wouldn’t be beaten by another Bond movie for a while.

Reviews at the time were quite positive. The Sunday Times said that "The cinema was a duller place before 007” after reflecting on all four movies. The Financial Times criticized the appearance of Connery and his effectiveness to play Bond in the film remarking: "It's not just that Sean Connery looks a lot more haggard and less heroic than he did two or three years ago; but there is much less effort to establish him as connoisseur playboy. Apart from the off-handed order for Beluga, there is little of that comic display of bon viveur-manship that was one of the charms of Connery's almost-a-gentleman 007."

Since then critics like Danny Peary have offered far mixed interpretations. “[Thunderball] takes forever to get started and has too many long underwater sequences during which it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable entry in the Bond series. Sean Connery is particularly appealing as Bond – I think he projects more confidence than in other films in the series. Film has no great scene, but it’s entertaining as long as the actors stay above water.” James Berardinelli, who somehow always shows up in my marathons, loved the cinematography, the cast and the action, but thought the scenes were too long and needed more work.

While never considered the most important Bond movie in terms of contribution to the series – in fact, often being used by modern critics as the poster child for a disappointing Bond movie – it was so far the most important in terms of financial gain and securing the series’ immortality. And while Eon was bathing in the riches, somebody else was brewing up their own cash-in on the wealthy franchise. Somebody….royal

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: The Origins 007

 

Goldfinger: The Richest Man Alive (1964)

ENTER PUSSY.

GOLDEN EYES

The following events took place before the publication of Dr. No. Remember this.

At the Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, Ian Fleming took the months of January and February of 1958 to write the longest manuscript for a Bond novel he had produced at that point. He had grand-scale on his mind, incorporating two already drafted short stories into his next Bond adventure. These included card games and stories of a man being sucked out of an airplane. Stories of tension. Most importantly Fleming wanted to give a boost of seriousness of the villain and originally titled the book The Richest Man Alive. (Hence my subtitle up above.)

Fleming had taken many of his friends names for characters in Bond books, and this wasn’t going to stop with The Richest Man Alive. The Masterton sisters had their names taken from Sir John Masterman, an M15 agent and Oxford graduate who ran the double cross system during World War II. Alfred Blacking was crafted after a golf college named Alfred Whiting, who spent his sports time at Royal St George’s Gold Club. That Club also was incorporated into the book, becoming the Royal St. Mark’s. The match at Royal St. Mark’s was heavily inspired by Ian’s own gold tourney participation. Blanche Blackwell, who had previously inspired James Bond’s housemaid in name, would now inspire Mrs. Galore in personality. Her name came from Mrs. “Pussy” Deakin.

As he crafted Mrs. Galore out of Blanche Blackwell, he remembered John Blackwell, the two being cousins. John Blackwell was also cousin by marriage to, you guessed it, Mr. Erno Goldfinger. Fleming and the Blackwells were not a huge fan of the dude. Erno Goldfinger was a man who would demolish Victorian style buildings and replace them with modern architect. (That doesn’t sound like a plot device.) When Erno got a whiff that Fleming was using his name, he threatened to sue. Fleming classily replied with “fuck your shit dude, you want the name redone, I’ll change it to Mr. Augustus Goldprick if you want me to.” They did some heroin together and agreed to disagree.

The name was changed slightly. Erno was changed to Auric. But there were still plenty of similarities. Auric and Erno were both Jewish immigrants to Britain. They were also both Marxists. (In other words smart communists.) The defining traits between them is in the physical characteristics. Many have speculated that the physical traits of Auric Goldfinger came from Charles W. Englehard, Jr., a well-known American tycoon. Fleming had met the dude in 1949 and had found out his franchise focused solely on exporting and importing precious metals. In other words, selling really expensive, really crude jewelry to who the fuck knows.

Fleming had set out to fully understand GOLD, and sent a letter to the…you guys should get a kick out of this…The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Yeah. Ian basically asked a million and a half questions. Ian Fleming became so absorbed in the Worship of Gold that he ordered a golden typewriter that was so precious it was not to be touched. Mythology goes that it could give you the powers of James Bond. It is still being scoured for to this day by a group of bandits that consist of Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake, Nicolas Cage, Michael Crichton, Tom Hanks and Brendan Frazer.

So now we visit Ian Fleming, a few months later, Goldfinger all drafted and stuff. He’s all chill, sipping his Fiji water (stuff sucks btw.) He’s awaiting the publication of Dr. No, sure to get some more cash, and planning the release of Goldfinger. He was still pushing back the subconscious thought of stopping the series that had originally been conscious after From Russia with Love. All of the sudden a hoard of police robots and Pope look-a-likes launched in the air with jet packs and started storming Ian Fleming with machine guns and a few shotguns for the REALLY GOOD Pope imitators. Ian kicked their ass, of course, with his military background, but he was still shocked with the attack.

In other words, Dr. No was released.

The criticism for Dr. No, as I’ve covered before, was pretty harsh. While less than half of the critics were swayed, emotions were definitely flipped against Fleming’s favor, questioning the Morales of the series, due to best Bond villain Bernard Bergonzi and his trusty sidekick Anthony Boucher. Jonathon Cape and Ian Fleming kept to their game and continued to publish the series without acknowledging the “unfounded” criticism. Fleming dedicated the book to his editor, William Plomer, and appeared on many promotional programs such as The Bookman and attended book signings at Harrods. His attempts proved worthy.

When Goldfinger was released, it went to the top of the best seller’s list in the first week. This was considerably little less of a miracle of effort. The Observer  would note that "Mr. Fleming seems to be leaving realism further and further behind and developing only in the direction of an atomic, sophisticated Sapper." (Sapper being Herman Cyril McNeile.) "[Goldfinger], even with [the author’s] forked tongue sticking right through his cheek, ... remains maniacally readable" He picked up on background information and said himself that "[Auric Goldfinger] is the most preposterous specimen yet displayed in Mr. Fleming's museum of super fiends…[but] the real trouble with Bond, from a literary point of view, is that he is becoming more and more synthetic and zombie-ish. Perhaps it is just as well."

The Manchester Guardian simply stated "Goldfinger...will not let [Bond's] close admirers down.” Roy Perrot, the critic for The Manchester Guardian, would continue to say that "Fleming is again at his best when most sportingly Buchan-ish as in the motoring pursuit across Europe.” He summarized the book by saying that it was "hard to put down; but some of us wish we had the good taste just to try." The Times magazine said that the writing was sound, and in regards to the plot, said "it sounds – and is – fantastic; the skill of Mr. Fleming is to be measured by the fact that it is made not to seem so."

The Times Literary Supplement announced that "a new Bond has emerged from these pages: an agent more relaxed, less promiscuous, less stagily muscular than of yore…The story, too, is more relaxed." While he saw mostly positives, he would addend his reaction with: "there are incidental displays of the virtuosity to which Mr. Fleming has accustomed us ...the narrative does not slip into top gear until Goldfinger unfolds his plan.” The Sunday Times would seem to start the small raid on Goldfinger with calling the novel “The Guilt-Edged Bond.”

The Evening Standard attempted to have the final say, listing "the things that make Bond attractive: the sex, the sadism, the vulgarity of money for its own sake, the cult of power, the lack of standards.” The Manchester Evening News, of all forces, retorted and counted successfully, saying "Only Fleming could have got away with it...[Goldfinger is] outrageously improbable, wickedly funny, wildly exciting.” But the biggest miracle by far was that the avid-007, avid-Fleming, full-time Bond Villain Anthony Boucher himself…liked Goldfinger. I could not convince you that Anthony said this: "the whole preposterous fantasy strikes me as highly entertaining."

It seemed Fleming had recovered the series. While he kept that alive, he forgot to keep himself alive. Keeping the book successful was like holding your breath underwater. It’s a feat of accomplishment and life is flowing into you, but you don’t want to do it again afterwards. Between the challenges of morale and the marital problems he faced (yeah no shit Mr. 50 wives) he didn’t really feel like going much longer. Andrew Lycett, Fleming’s biographer, noted that Ian seemed to have "went into a personal and creative decline" at this time.

In the Summer of 1958, CBS had contacted Fleming about doing TV episodes based on Bond stories after Casino Royale proved to be successful. Fleming agreed and slowly worked on outlines of the story, but by the time Goldfinger was published CBS had dropped out of the project. (Yeah I bet they’re regretting that now.) He decided to adapt the four outlines into short stories and even make a fifth one. His imagery for this book was…not of the most fantastic that the last few novels had been built up of. "Ian's mood of weariness and self-doubt was beginning to affect his writing" said his biographer.

His first outline, “From a View to a Kill” was originally about the background of the main character in Moonraker. It originally took place in World War II and featured Hugo Drax as a motorcyclist who crashed and was taken to an American field hospital. The hospital would have been bombed, leaving Drax with amnesia and a disfigured face. Instead the story went with a villain meant to be the antithesis of Bond, with grey hair, the air of a bank manager, basically, The Taxman. Fleming incorporated tunnels from his experiences in Auxiliary Units during World War II. The original title was "The Rough with the Smooth."

The titular outline, originally entitled “Man’s Work” and “Death Leaves an Echo.” was set in Vermont, where Fleming had spent many summers at Ivar Bryce’s farm. That farm, called the Ivar Bryce Black-Hallow Farm, became the outline for the Hammerstein’s hideout, Echo Lake. The name of the villain in this story was named Von Hammerstein, named after Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, most notable for being of Hitler’s…biggest…enemies. Ehem. Excuse me while I try to figure out how the Hell I can make this anymore politically correct after all the shit that’s been said here.

The next story, Quantum of Solace, came from a story that Blanche Blackwell had told Fleming about an existent police officer, whom Fleming named Phillips Masters. Fleming bought Blanche a Cartier watch in exchanged for the inspiration. W. Somerset Maugham was the literary model for this short story, which resulted in Fleming paid homage to that admired author. Fleming modeled the story after a specific short story by the man, namely His Excellency. Risico, the fourth of five stories, was written out of a love for Venice, Italy. Ian and his wife, Ann, had been holidaying in that place, and Ian had come to greatly appreciate the work of Thomas Mann in his novella Death of Venice. Venice would become the backdrop for the final TV outline. The love interest for that story would be using his ex-girlfriend from Austria, where he had travelled to back in the 1930’s. Giaocchino Columbus, the Ferrari engine designer, was also incorporated into the story.

The final story, not based on a TV episode outline was named The Hildebrand Rarity. It originated in April 1958 when he flew to Seychelles to report for The Sunday Times on the treasure hunt for his golden typewriter. He made sure to kill the entire group of bandits, and steal all the details of the island for literary inspiration. It, naturally, got merged with Jamaica. The Fleming family then poisoned everybody and got off without anybody knowing. Except for that living turtle skeleton, he’s a little pissed off.

The villain would be crafted after “Milton,” codename for a Greek sea captain who ferried British soldiers and agents through German patrols and who received the Distinguished Service Order and an MBE. He would also take inspiration from “Krest” a ginger beer that Fleming had drunk during his poison raid of Seychelles. This story and Quantum of Solace were published in ugh….uuuugh…Women’s entertainment magazines…in the late 50’s before the first official publication of For Your Eyes Only on April 11th, 1960.

The original printing, 15 shillings a piece, was quickly sold out. It was published in the United States four months later. Fleming, Cape and the artists collaborator, Richard Chopping, had become all tightly connected. Ian Fleming has said that Richard Chopping was the greatest artistic collaborator that any thriller writer has ever had. Ian Fleming would find himself at a lack of ideas for the new cover, but Richard Chopping knew what to do. Quite obvious once you think about it. The three enjoyed the spoils.

The Guardian reacted pleasantly, preferring short stories over novels. Their more objective criticism included the statement that "the first story is full of the old wild improbabilities, but one of the others has a positively Maughamish flavour." (Nah, really? How’d that happen?) They finished their report by commentating on the polarized fan base of the Bond series. "It seems that one must either enjoy the novels of Mr. Ian Fleming beyond reason or be unable to read them at all."

The Observer, sister paper to The Guardian, thought that "our Casanovaesque* cad-clubman secret agent is mellowing a bit now.” While they also preferred short stories over novels for this series, but noted the downside of having a Bond story all in such a short space. "If it checks the wilder fantasies it cuts short the love-affairs” said they. The Spectator would elaborate, saying "each episode of the Bond novels meant the adventure was less probable and more preposterous than the last, and now our hero seems to have lost, as well as any claims to plausibility, the know-how, the know-who, know-what and sheer zing that used to carry the unlikely plots along. Perhaps all that mattress pounding is taking it out of poor Bond.”

*Dat word.

The Listener continued to work on this point saying  "[Bond’s] admirers ... will find him in top form. All but one of [these stories] are well up to 007's high standard.” He also noted the diminishing enthusiasm in these stories, by saying "The Commander seems to be mellowing with the years. [Because of this was] less of a show-off ... and, for once, his chronicler has almost cut out the sadism". In terms of the villains in the book, most notably Milton Krest, Raymond saw that Fleming's "capacity to create villains is undiminished".

The Times reflected that "the mood of For Your Eyes Only is, in fact, a good deal more sober and, perhaps, weary than before.” They liked the short stories and thought less of the cramming issue. "The girls, though a short story allows them only walk-on parts, are as wild and luscious as ever.” The Times Literary Supplement thought that "Mr. Fleming's licensed assassin is in pretty good form. [O]ccasionally there seem to be echoes of Ashenden and glimpses of Rogue Male, but the Bond ambience is persuasive.”

James Sandoe, An American critic, would say the book possessed "urban savagery and mighty smooth tale-spinning.” As soon as whiff caught word that an American critic had stabbed at Bond, Anthony Boucher woke up and was like “SHIT! I’M LATE!” He got up and started jabbing down fast, stating that “[Fleming’s] basic weakness as a storyteller…can be summed up in two words: 'no story.'" He found that the short story format made the chronicles “proportionate” and he found the prose  "eminently smooth and readable” even if "Bond's triumphs are too simple and lack ... intricate suspense.”

Both the critics and Ian Fleming were prepared to let Bond die a peaceful death. But that wouldn’t happen. No fucking way that would have happened. More of Ian Fleming’s biography in a review of Thunderball.

JAMES BOND BACK IN ACTION!

From Russia with Love was made on a budget twice that of Dr. No and as a result pulled it twice the gross. In modern dollars, FRWL (pronounced Frowel) earned $94 Million. It has since increased its dollars to an unadjusted $78 Million, which is big time. Which is big time. I meant to repeat that. It was the most popular movie in Brittan during the year of 1963 and ended up being the #5 most popular of movies that year in the entire world, only beaten by such cinematic legends as Cleopatra, How the West was Won, The Birds and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The Guardian, in comparing the two movies, said that Frowel "didn't seem quite so lively, quite so fresh, or quite so rhythmically fast-moving... the film is highly immoral in every imaginable way; it is neither uplifting, instructive nor life-enhancing. Neither is it great film-making. But it sure is fun." (Not uplifting but fun? What’s your idea of fun good sir?) The Observer offered their own nit-picky opinion saying that "The way the credits are done has the same self-mocking flamboyance as everything else in the picture…[the film manages] to keep up its own cracking pace, nearly all the way. The set-pieces are a stunning box of tricks".

The Times commented on the Bond character himself, analyzing him as "the secret ideal of the congenital square, conventional in every particular [way]... except in morality, where he has the courage—and the physical equipment—to do without thinking what most of us feel we might be doing ... [overall] the nonsense is all very amiable and tongue-in-cheek and will no doubt make a fortune for its devisers.” (Yeah tell me about it broski.) Positive reviews no doubt came about. Time called the film “fast, smart, shrewdly directed and capably performed" in its general statements and then went to relatively great lengths (try me fucker) to comment on the humor of the movie.

“Director Young is a master of the form he ridicules, and in almost every episode he hands the audience shocks as well as yocks. But the yocks are more memorable. They result from slight but sly infractions of the thriller formula. A Russian agent, for instance, does not simply escape through a window; no, he escapes through a window in a brick wall painted with a colossal poster portrait of Anita Ekberg, and as he crawls out of the window, he seems to be crawling out of Anita's mouth. Or again, Bond does not simply train a telescope on the Russian consulate and hope he can read somebody's lips; no, he makes his way laboriously into a gallery beneath the joint, runs a submarine periscope up through the walls, and there, at close range, inspects two important Soviet secrets: the heroine's legs."

The New York Times advised its readers with this: "Don't miss it! This is to say, don't miss it if you can still get the least bit of fun out of lurid adventure fiction and pseudo-realistic fantasy. For this mad melodramatization of a desperate adventure of Bond with sinister characters in Istanbul and on the Orient Express is fictional exaggeration on a grand scale and in a dashing style, thoroughly illogical and improbable, but with tongue blithely wedged in cheek." Modern day reaction to the movie is wonderfully positive, with a solid 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and many critics saying it was the best James Bond movie ever.

You could not have more incentive to make Thunderball at this point in time from Eon’s perspective. But unfortunately, during a thing that was going on that I will cover later, Eon’s novel of choice, Thunderball, was not exactly up for sale. So they went and chose Goldfinger, after figuring that the setting revolving around Western countries would attract American audiences. Richard Malbaum got to work right away, trying to fix the infamous plot hole from the novel. Harry Saltzman disliked this first draft and brought in Paul Dehn (the Planet of the Apes sequels) to bring out the “British side of things.” He also added a completely irrelevant action scene for pre-credits entertainment, which had Sean Connery disliking the 2nd draft. Richard Malbaum returned to polish, with Wolf Mankowitz helping out a little, returning from the 1st film.

Terrence Young was negotiating the greenbacks with Broccoli when he realized he was getting scammed out of his life. He was all like “screw this, Imma go do…some…thing.” (Yeah he was going to be crawling back in like 6 months.) They grabbed backup dude Guy Hamilton, who originally turned down the series. He wanted to make some major changes, of them being making Bond less of a superhero by creating much more credible villains – as Ian Fleming had when he made the novel. Those two had actually known each other through past experience in the intelligence matters of World War II in the Royal British Navy. Guy also brought back two previous bond veterans, Bob Simmons and Ken Adams.

Kenny wanted to start to incorporated more gadgets into the series, which had been done slightly but not to the extent that Bond fans have come accustomed to. The first thing that he brought to the table was Bond’s car. He chose the Aston Martin DB5, which was, at the time, according to Ken, the most sophisticated car in England. Aston Martin, the company, was initially reluctant on building the necessary two cars for the production, but they eventually figured the product placement advertisement would be totally worth it.

While Ian Fleming only wanted Bond’s car to have smoke screen capabilities, everybody on cast and crew wanted their own ideas incorporated. Hamilton had been getting into too many speeding incidents and that is how he came to conceiving the idea of the spinning license plate. His stepson had come up with the idea of the ejector seat, which he had seen somewhere on television. Originally somebody had suggested a pocket near the car lights that would drop sharp objects, but they figured the “don’t try this at home” warning wouldn’t be effective there and replaced it with an oil dispensary which would be much more expensive if you or I were to attempt to recreate it.

The major overhauling of the two cars took six weeks combined. They were both ultimately obliterated. They also decided to create the prototype in full capacity for advertising purposes. Or it was fucking fun. One of the two. You know what else is fun? Firin’ mah lazah. Which, notably, people could not do back in 1959. And most people in the world couldn’t even do that in 1964. Hamilton, Haltzman and Broccoli ended up being three of the luckiest people in the world who could fire their lazah at such an early time in history, which they also gave to Goldfinger through magic.

On January 20th, 1964, in Miami, Florida. Simmons, Hamilton, Adams, Saltzman, Broccoli and cinematographer Ted More stayed in the Fontainebleau Hotel to begin shooting Goldfinger. While Sean Connery was filming Marine, an Alfred Hitchcock picture, Miami provided the scenes for focuses on Felix and Oddjob. After five days, production moved back to England at Pinewood Studios. They attempted to recreate the hotel they stayed at and a South American city which would host Goldfinger’s hideout. They used a bunch of nearby areas for specific scenes, such as Black Park, NAF Northolt, Stoke Park Club, and London Southend Airport. Lastly they made sure to send guys over to Kentucky to get some fried chicken. ‘Cause that shit is the bomb.

They all moved over to Switzerland to get some desert, and shot some car chases and snipe shots while they were at it. Not having eaten their Broccoli, he would attempt to Run to Fort Knox to film some pussy. He slammed in the area and the military destroyed his ass when he landed 500 feet in the air. He was arrested on charges of breaking the laws of psychics. Broccoli was bailed and they recreated all the sets they needed at Pinewood. They had no idea what the interior of the United States Bullion Depository looked like, so Ken Adams was all like “GOLD! GOLD! GODDAMN GOLD! GOLD EVERY F*CKING WHERE GIMME GOLD!” And they were all like “sounds gold to me.”

Saltzman was not a huge fan of the design, but Broccoli and Hamilton liked it enough to have it built anyways. So Saltzman went to the United States to cause a gigantic uproar revolution. He lead United Artists in an army from their irate fanbase about a British filming crew trying to blast their way into Fort Knox. This army also merged with the treasure hunting crew mentioned before, which then also spread their efforts against Ian Fleming and his magically disappearing GOLD typewriter. The fight was incredible, lasting eons and eons, being written about in the scrolls of washed out metal bands, and resulting in an asteroid injuring the thousands of Russians in existence. In the end, though, Bond beats all, and production continued.

They finished their dinner on the 11th of July in 1964, although Hamilton and Saltzman would go at leftovers a few weeks before they shat.

GOLD REVIEW

What this movie is known for, named after, and frankly the entire James Bond series is famous for having amongst other things, is the main villain. Or in this case the main two villains. And they’re…kinda disappointing. One of the things that was really cool about Dr. No or Red Grant or some of the other Bond villains we saw in the first two movies was that they had a healthy balance of mystery and familiarity. It’s often agreed that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see, so shrouding your villain in a lot of mystery with less physical appearances and more allusions is a good character developing technique. Granted you don’t want to make him so disconnected from the main protagonist that he feels less like a legitimate threat and more like a final boss, but this movie makes Goldfinger and Oddjob a little too human. Especially for a James Bond movie.

You could probably make this formula work if your villains are so inhuman in personality that the way the audience knows them doesn’t matter as much. But their characters are not…very fresh, so to say. Maybe it’s a matter of me not being connected to that time period, but let’s bring it to the days of today. Imagine if a modern action thriller had an Islamic terrorist or dictator as the major villain today or even a decade ago. The critics would label it as too obvious and the audience would be reluctant to see it. Now of course this is James Bond so obviously you’re going to get an asston of cash, but that doesn’t excuse the quality of the villain.

Goldfinger is a somewhat unexaggerated but intense and obvious Jewish stereotype. All he cares about is money, he’s fat and his nose is gigantic, he cheats at every game and wouldn’t win otherwise, and has an evil plot that would demolish the United States economy from underneath while getting him an asston of wealth. Not to mention he has a bank. A bank that closes on Saturdays and not Sundays. Ladies and Gentlemen it may just be matter of me being Jewish myself but I can’t imagine somebody watching this today and feeling very uncomfortable.

And if we wanna throw Communist stereotypes on it, his henchman, Oddjob, (who’s introduction is the cheesiest thing so far in this series aside from the Tarantula) is a silent Asian who’s only battle strategy is brute strength and reflexes. Between being paired with a Jewish stereotype, and having the traits of a fat mute martial artist…yeah, okay. There was racism in the other movies but this goes a little too far for me personally. Not to mention, advice to all up and coming scriptwriters, stereotypes do not feel human. This is a definite example of that.

While the villains might not be expertly balanced I can say the opposite for Mr. Bond this round. In Dr. No we didn’t see much of the “moral dilemmas” that we’ve noted before and in From Russia with Love they might have come off too strong. In this movie, while keeping his identity, Bond finds a happy medium that sees him as a suave and caring fellow whose morals are noticeably distorted. He’s no jerkoff but he’s not perfect either. Third time’s the charm I guess? Only problem I thought was that at a couple points in the movie Bond felt a little dumber than usual for the convenience of the plot. This might not make much sense from a critical perspective on a fictional work but it seems like Bond began to rely more on the gadgets in this movie so much that he forget some of his own wit. That was one of the charming things about Bond and this effect isn’t too apparent but it has its moments. Most ridiculous is when he accidentally gets himself locked up.

The third point in this triangle of Bond clichés should go without saying –Bond, the villain, and the Bond girl. Pussy Galore has been one of the most influential Bond girls in cinematic history and even if her personality hasn’t resonated in the common awareness of the franchise her name has been the one that describes Bond girls the most. Oddly enough….(I’m kinda wondering if Bernard had some sort of a point.) She’s umm…she’s okay. I don’t know. I don’t really mind her but I don’t really care about her. The girl I really liked in this movie was Jill Masterson played by Shirley from the beginning of the movie. She was the perfect Bond girl. But frankly we wouldn’t be able to have THE SCENE without her early departure from the story, so I understand. Pussy on the other hand, it feels like her defining trait is that she’s a henchman…(henchwoman?) Her personality doesn’t shine, she’s just passable, whatever, I can’t even really remember many scenes with her. She’s just there.

Now if you wanna talk about action scenes then we’re getting a little more positive. The climax of this movie, while probably not nearly as effective today, must be credited positively. Study the scene  and you’ll probably notice that a ton of this has gone into the modern first person shooter. Which, ironically, was jump-started by Goldeneye. The amount of people getting shot and in such a velocity with so much at stake at the time would have been one of the most thrilling action scenes ever created. Not to mention if you have this potential situation set-up, this execution is not far from the person’s imaginations. Now we’re disenfranchised by video games like Half-Life, Call of Duty, Doom, Halo, etcetera, that we no longer can buy in this. But you’ve got to give some damn credit to something that has lend it’s hand in building the foundation for a type of video game that has only emerged in the last decade and a half back in the day when only one video game existed and the next one wouldn’t be invented for another fifteen years.

The music is…too much. WAAAAY too much. I could handle all the cheesy shit with the over exaggerated horns and the aged music in the first and second movie, but this is…wow. It becomes a matter of comedy, and in the opening credits it becomes a matter of annoyance. If there’s a moment of emphasis in the soundtrack it’s either at the right time but dialed up to eleven or at the right degree but at the complete wrong time, making one wonder how the sound editor was doing at the time of production. And that theme…Goldfinger’s theme. I umm….WOW. That’s…lame. That’s fucking lame. I’m sorry for being so crude but it’s true. I highly prefer Palladium Antenna.

http://tohokingdom.com/media/toons/toon_143.htm

Last thing I think I will mention in this movie is the plot. Unlike Dr. No or From Russia with Love, it doesn’t get started immediately. This is an admirable mission to try to bring some more class to the film but they…sort of went overboard. The fact we don’t get to know the villain’s true motivation until 70% through the movie is a little nuts. Fine, you want to wait until 40%-50% to reveal the villain’s motivations? With hints I can do that, which they do offer in this movie. But you’ve just set up the climax right before the climax happened? Ever heard of foreshadowing? Maybe it’s just my own laziness but I had to remind myself why James Bond was doing any of this shit in the first place a few times during the movie. What are we supposed to be on his side just because he’s fighting a Jew?...UGH. *shudders* Reminds me never to take my time machine to the 60’s, kapeesh? I don’t wanna get thrown in jail anytime soon.

Goldfinger is definitely a really enjoyable film, worthy of the Bond series and the most influential so far between name recognition and innovations. But I feel like Dr. No and From Russia with Love justifiably set up such a high precedent that Goldfinger could have been so much better. Especially since it’s source material is the only that Anthony Boucher actually liked that had to do with 007. James Bond and the early first scenes are likely the main reason to watch this movie, but the villain, the girl, the intrigue, the scripting and the soundtrack just feel disappointing. 3.7/5

AFTERMATH

So despite my own criticism, Goldfinger might be the one James Bond film with the most name recognition. It debuted in London on the 17th of September 1964, a general national release followed the next day. The crowd was enormous, police could not control them. They tore down each movie theater they were trying to get in one at a time. But since there were several groups, it turned from hundreds to thousands to millions of happy fans in a matter of days, which ended up in a mass burning of Big Ben. Before the nuclear bombs hit the United Kingdom, you could hear the crowd chant "I AM BOND! JAMES BOND!" We will forever remember the people who went nuts for absolutely no reason.

Though in actuality they did break down the glass doors of one movie theater. Not nearly as entertaining but still noteworthy. People get rabid for their real gold colored paint.  Ironically, the United States premiere occurred on December 21st of that same year and dear lord I do NOT want to talk about what happened on that day. The film was opened internationally the next year aside from, interestingly, Israel. Apparently the actor who played Auric Goldfinger was connected to the Nazi party. (Way to make me hate him more.) The ban was lifted when a Jewish family thanked them an for rescuing them from the concentration camps during World War II. You know, he was one of those GOOD Nazis........

The marketing began as soon as filming due to Eon allowing photographers and news reporters onto the sets, most notably taking pictures of Shirley Eaton painted in gold. Robert Brownjohn, who designed the opening credits, was charged with responsibility for the posters for the advertising campaign, which were also criminally charged for using actress Margaret Nolan. Marketing continued with the Aston Martin DB5 showcasing at the 1964 New York World Fair where it was dubbed "the most famous car in the world." Sales rose tremendously. Corgi Toys started a partnership with Bond, one that would last a lifetime, now creating a toy of the car. When the movie grossed so high, they continued to create tie-in clothing, shoes, action figures, games, lunch boxes, toys, record albums, T-Shirts, trading cards and flamethrowers.

Dr. No, the first, was made on $1 Million, and From Russia with Love, the second, was made on $2 Million, so you could easily guess this next movie would be made on $3 Million. This was recouped in less than two weeks. Not bad. It broke world records in most international markets, and Guinness World Records lists it as the fasted grossing film of all time. Demand for the film was so high that most movie theaters in large cities were forced to keep the power on 24/7, which of course lead to a mix of confusion, hysteria, mobs and sleeplessness, which SHOULD BE but isn't told of in many internet creepypastas.

The film initially grossed $23 Million in England and the USA at the end of it's first run, while grossing $46 Million worldwide. That is over 15x the original budget and $330,393,765.65 in modern dollars. That's fucking incredible. Since then it has been re-released and double featured with Dr. No, now having a worldwide gross of $124,900,000 in unadjusted dollars. The most recent re release was on July 27th in 2007, which was so popular that it put Goldfinger at twelfth opening weekend in history. The film was also pretty well received by critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes the movie has a 96%, tied with From Russia with Love. The Sunday Times, Fleming's old newspaper, said that it was "superbly engineered. It is fast, it is most entertainingly preposterous and it is exciting." Over at The Times, they claimed that "All the devices are infinitely sophisticated, and so is the film: the tradition of self-mockery continues, though at times it over-reaches itself", also saying that "It is the mixture as before, only more so: it is superb hokum." He claimed that Connery wasn't the shining star, though, saying "There is some excellent bit-part playing by Mr. Bernard Lee and Mr. Harold Sakata: Mr. Gert Fröbe is astonishingly well cast in the difficult part of Goldfinger."

Donald Zec gave it a really nice review, caling "Ken Adam's set designs...brilliant; the direction of Guy Hamilton tautly exciting; Connery is better than ever, and the titles superimposed on the gleaming body of the girl in gold are inspired." The Observer observed that the film had "a spoofing callousness" and that it was "absurd, funny and vile." The Guardian said it was composed of "two hours of unmissable fantasy", also saying that the film was "the most exciting, the most extravagant of the Bond films: garbage from the gods", adding that Connery was "better than ever as Bond."

Writing in The Illustrated London News, Alan Dent thought Goldfinger was "...even tenser, louder, wittier, more ingenious and more impossible than 'From Russia with Love'... [a] brilliant farrago", adding that Connery "is ineffable." The Sunday Telegraph said it was "dazzling in its technical ingenuity" trying his best to sound like the back of a DVD box, with Time said "this picture is a thriller exuberantly travestied." The one notably negative review came from The New York Times, saying that it was "tediously apparent" the Bond was becoming increasingly reliant on gadgets with less emphasis on "the lush temptations of voluptuous females", although they did admit that "Connery plays the hero with an insultingly cool, commanding air." He saved his praises from Bond for other actors, most notably the villain.

In The Guide for the Film Fanatic, a certain Danny Perry can be cited as saying the following. "[Goldfinger is] the best of the James Bond films starring Sean Connery...There's lots of humor, gimmicks, excitement, an amusing yet tense golf contest between Bond and Goldfinger, thrilling fights to the death between Bond and Oddjob and Bond and Goldfinger, and a fascinating central crime... Most enjoyable, but too bad Eaton's part isn't longer and that Fröbe's Goldfinger, a heavy but nimble intellectual in the Sydney Greenstreet tradition, never appeared in another Bond film."

Goldfinger is probably the most successful James Bond movie ever, and changed his destiny from being a famous franchise to a household name and the inspiration for all spy films to come. That's not my opinion, that's documented fact. So with all this success, what could they possibly follow it up with? What does Broccoli & Sandman Inc. have in store for us?

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: Mad Max 007

Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (1963)

Still a great movie.

MINOR/MODERATE SPOILERS AHEAD

Boy, where do I begin with this thing? I guess, if I can't do it any other way, I'll start with the plot. Basically, a bunch of people are on a ship heading for Europe. This includes a writer, a dancer, a psychologist, a very socially reserved girl, a hired sailor, a nutjob, and a few other characters. They get in the middle of a flood which shifts them far off course and damages their directional instruments....not like you could use the STARS or anything, but whatever. They land on an island that is uninhabited, for the most part. There is an abandoned ship that is filled with "mold."

Seriously, the "mold" is everywhere. I looked at some things, like the pool table, and wouldn't even realize they were covered in mold  until a character wiped some off and I could see a different color. It was so common that it blended into the walls, to the point where you couldn't tell if there were windows. I couldn't imagine being in this situation. It turns out the mold is from a type of mushroom which seems edible, but really has chemicals that can damage the nervous system and transform your skin to the point where you resemble a walking collection of 50 stalks of the fungus.

I liked a lot of the characters. The writer and both of our female stars are my favorites. We get tons of time with them. To the point where you know the writer. You understand how not only is he out of his environment, he is the most uncomfortable out of everybody. The socially awkward woman is not socially awkward because she doesn't like anybody, it's because she is out of her environment. Which becomes ironic when EVERYBODY becomes out of their environment. Because of this the other characters start taking out their frustration on her. If you're enough of a nerd to know this movie exists than you probably relate to this girl somewhat, and seeing her picked on just because everybody else is now feeling her struggle really pisses you off.

The other girl (is it a bad thing I'm too lazy to find their names?) is on the more villainous side of the cast. Nobody's really a full on evil person, it's just a matter of who has the bigger ego and is willing to sacrifice their friends beforehand. She is on the border of the baddies. She is the girl who pretends to be completely full of herself, who is constantly wanted by the men and tries to portray herself as better than everybody -- while making some half-attempt at being kind. In reality, she has no belief in herself, and that's why she is most in her element when the mushrooms finally overtake her. Because she is no longer herself.

Characters like the hired sailor, the nutjob, and the psychologist get their fair share of focus, but not to the point where you would remember who the Hell they were in minus 24 hours. Everybody else (although there's not much left after that) is very forgettable and recyclable. Guess an hour and a half isn't enough to fully expand on eight or nine characters, which is kind of forgivable. In today's environment these characters would get much more focus, but in a 1963 monster movie (or so it was marketed as so) some of them have to get shafted. It is a detriment but an understandable detriment.

The mushrooms themselves are...ummm...freaking...weird.* Let me start by describing their roar - yes, ladies and gentlemen, mushrooms can roar. It's a...it's a...like if you took a crowd of laughter, mixed it with a monkey, a starving dog and somebody strapped into the electric chair. Then pumped the volume up to 11. THAT is the sound of insanity if I've ever heard it. Speaking of sounds, how are the tracks of these sounds? They're pretty damn good. The movie is mostly music-less, which I find to be in it's favor, but when there is music it does a fantastic job of putting you in it's environment. 

*No adequate picture was available

More sounds being mentioned, the dialogue is really good. More the scene-by-scene writing than the dialogue. I absolutely love the scene where the nutjob thinks they're all hallucinating, and he goes on to go full-Retardican and say they're all insane because there's two hot chicks in the room. The girls ask for support from the guys, but nobody speaks. The inference is that they all secretly want to rape them too, but won't admit to it. This is expanded at a good pace throughout the rest of the film to the point where the women lose their self confidence completely from their experiences.

This does lead into one big problem in the movie. It doesn't have much overall structure. Maybe I'm just too used to American movies that key in the audience way too much. But from my point of view, the movie has a bad sense of continuity. Actions are sometimes started and never finished, or if they were I didn't catch them. There's one awesome scene where a guy gets shot on the boat and he holds onto a rope as he falls down - the shot shows the rope falling too, and it must have been at least thirty feet. But then the next shot shows the ground no more than fifteen feet from the ground. Yeah. That makes tons of sense.

But overall the movie is really good. Despite two major problems and obvious limitations of the market both by interest and time. This movie can boast some really well developed main characters, ESPECIALLY for a Toho monster flick. It can boast an awesome score by the master Akira Ifu---or, maybe Sadao Bekku. Thought it sounded different. It can also boast a really awesome monster and some wonderfully written scenes - despite some narrative issues. I went into this movie expecting to give it half the rating I did the first time I reviewed. it. Instead, I'm giving it a 4/5 + The Kickass Seal of Approval.

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

From Russia with Love (1963)

JAMES BOND IS BACK!

If you got the opening reference I commend you highly.

FROM FLEMING, WITH LOVE

On March 26th, 1956, Diamonds are Forever was published, concluding Ian Fleming’s contractual obligation to complete a trilogy of sequels to Casino Royale. The four existing James Bond books had sold so highly, with his creative spirits swimming in the sky, that Ian Fleming was fully prepared to write a new book. Before Diamonds are Forever was published, Ian Fleming had already completed a 228 page first draft of From Russia, with Love. (This draft would be heavily edited later.) In writing the book, he had attained information from his trips for The Sunday times in Istanbul to cover Interpol meetings. (And yes, he still worked there.) There he would meet Nazim Kalkavan, an Oxford-educated native who Fleming found absolutely fascinating. He felt the urge to write down every damn word he said, which draw the attention of this new friend, Fleming’s employer, and Interpol. He would use these conversations verbatim for his next Bond novel to create the character of Darko Kerim. This naturally attracted the attention of VIACOM and their copyright police.

Coming back home, Ian would be on The Orient Express from Istanbul, and would find the experience “rather drab,” partially because there was no restaurant car. In this time of boredom and/or starvation (hard to tell between the two when you’re rich), he would ponder upon Eugene Karp, would had taken this train ride a few years before.  Karp was a US naval attaché and intelligence agent based in Budapest who, in February 1950, took the Orient Express from Budapest to Paris, carrying a number of papers about blown US spy networks in the Eastern Bloc. He was killed by Soviet Assassins already on the train, whom the driver drugged was drugged by. This resulted in the train crashing with Eugene’s body found in the rubble.

In carving the half-German half-Italian assassin featured in this story, Fleming would look to Jamaica. (The guy does not know his ethnicities.) He would visit Red Grant, who was a common river guide, described as being “a cheerful, voluble giant of villainous aspect[s].” He would then find Rosa Klebb in Colonel Rybkin of Soviet Intelligence. The bait for Bond, namely the Spektor machine, would not find its origins in the Cold War but instead World War II. The Enigma Machine, which Fleming had attempted to steal during his time in the military, was the basis for this weapon.

In April of 1956, one year before the publication, Ian Fleming would finish From Russia with Love with one last major change to the original manuscript. This change has shrouded in mystery on this website since 1598.*Regardless, on April 8th, 1957, Jonathon Cape would release the fifth James Bond novel. He commissioned Richard Chopping with fifty Guinness to make his award winning cover art. This art design would be centered around Geoffrey Boothroyod’s letter to Fleming, telling him that he knew jackshit about guns.

*In other words he doesn’t want to spoil it for you – Skim “Bob” Joe

The advertising campaign for this novel was extremely successful because of two major political leaders. One was English Prime Minster Sir Anthony Eden, who visited Ian Fleming at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. Eden stayed there many nights to recuperate due to his declining health in the year. The British press published this story as much as the modern American press would publish a story about a fist fight between Nicki Minaj and Christina Aguilera over Fred Durst. As in as much as they could do before angry moms stormed the place. The advertising had another extreme boost in 1961 when a Life Magazine article claimed that From Russia with Love was one of John F. Kennedy’s top 10 favorite books. After this article was published, Fleming became the highest selling crime novelist in the world.

Literary critics and scholars were taking notice of what was being labeled as the “Fleming Sweep,” which detailed using hooks at the end of chapters to heighten tension and pull readers into the next chapter of the story. I paraphrase continuation Bond author Raymond Benson, who would say that “the Fleming sweep propels the plot of one of Fleming’s longest books to make it seem half as long.” Julian Symons would join the general praise of the fifth Bond book, saying that it was the author’s "tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale", that the author "brings the thriller in line with modern emotional needs", and that Bond "is the intellectual's Mike Hammer: a killer with a keen eye and a soft heart for a woman.” The book would also receive lines of praise as “stupendous plot to trap,” “Ian Fleming is in a class by himself,” with The Sunday Times adding the final icing on the cake with a psychoanalytical approach at the character, saying “If a psychiatrist and a thoroughly efficient copywriter got together to produce a fictional character who would be the mid-twentieth century subconscious male ambition, the result would inevitably be James Bond.”

There were negative reviews, though. Anthony Boucher, a common real-life villain against Bond and Fleming, would say that this was his “longest and poorest book.” He described it having “as usual, sex-cum-sadism with a veneer of literacy but without the occasional brilliant setpieces.” The Times would note that “the general tautness and brutality of the story leave the reader uneasily hovering between fact and fiction.” Mostly, though, we can still observe the most positive of reviews, noting New York Herald Tribune’s quote: “Mr Fleming is intensely observant, acutely literate and can turn a cliché into a silk purse with astute alchemy.” Robert R. Kirsch would likely have the final say, saying that “the espionage novel has been brought up to date by a superb practitioner of that nearly lost art: Ian Fleming. [From Russia, with Love] has everything of the traditional plus the most modern refinements in the sinister arts of spying."

After the publishing of From Russia with Love, Ian Fleming was highly unsure of continuing the series. After all, he had killed James Bond.* He sat on his bed one nice day in May of 1957 and thought back to a trip he took with Robert “Cashman” Murphy. He was an ornithologist who took Ian with Arthur Venyay to see a flamingo colony in the Bahamas. Legitimately. The island of Great Inagua is pretty much flamingos and that’s it. There’s some egrets and spoonbills but you go there for the flamingos. This became the home of a certain James Bond villain. That home was named Crab Key.

*Never mind, he does want to spoil it for you. – Mr. Twister

Bond would find inspiration for the “dragon” in his next James Bond novel from the Land Rover they drove upon through this island. But who was the villain who commanded Crab Key and The Dragon? None other than that whom was derived from classic film villain Dr. Fu Manchu…but by the time Fleming was done with him, he had been changed to Dr. No. One of Ian’s partners, Henry Morgenthau III, wanted Fleming to collaborate with him on a TV show centered around James Gunn. Considering Henry was already ripping off his partner, Fleming saw it appropriate to do just the same, and steal the story for his next novel, originally titled The Wound Man.

Ivar Bryce would once again be responsible for the naming of another James Bond character, but this time by association. May Maxwell, his housekeeper, would have the name taken by Ian Fleming to name Bond’s “Scottish treasure.” Blanche Blackwell, who was his neighbor and future lover, would have a ship named after her in Dr. No. A guano collecting ship. How flattering. She would retort by giving Fleming a book called Octopussy. Yeah. I need not explain this to you. If that wasn’t enough, he would use Blanche as a model for Pussy Galore in…well, we’ll save that for next time.

On the 31st of March 1958, Dr. No was published by Jonathon Cape. And it was right around this time when a dude named Bernard Bergonzi Garbanzo Beans would attack Ian Fleming’s books. He said they had "a strongly marked streak of voyeurism and sado-masochism" and that the books showed "the total lack of any ethical frame of reference.” He would unfavorably compared Fleming to John Buchan and Raymond Chandler in regards to his morals and ethics. Most interesting to note, Bernard’s criticism wouldn’t be the only super harsh criticism Fleming would get for one of his Bond books. For the first time.

Paul Johnson would be the one to add fire to fuel with his review entitled Sex, Snobbery and Sadism. "I have just finished what is, without doubt, the nastiest book I have ever read,” he said, "by the time I was a third of the way through, I had to suppress a strong impulse to throw the thing away.” He said that in Bond there “[Is] a social phenomenon of some importance[.]” But this became a bad thing in his eye, where he said there were “three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical, two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult." He ended his epic rant with "Mr Fleming has no literary skill, the construction of the book is chaotic, and entire incidents and situations are inserted, and then forgotten, in a haphazard manner."

Maurice Richardson would join the fight, calling it "the usual sado-masochistic free-for-all, plus octopuses." (Hey, octopuses do offer a assload of brownie points.) The critic working for her sister newspaper would say "the casualties take place on a somewhat narrower front than usual, they are heavy.” He would go on to attack Paul Johnson’s summary, however, saying  “to regard [Dr. No] as necessarily being a sign of moral decay would be to oversimplify the relationship between literature and its audience. We should be grateful to Mr. Fleming for providing a conveniently accessible safety-valve for the boiling sensibility of modern man."

Fleming would come to these three critics and offer his words. He accepted most criticism, though attempted to bring defense. He addressed Bond’s obsession with certain objects, saying that "I had to fit Bond out with some theatrical props". He added "Bond's luxury meals are simply saying "no" to toad-in-the-hole and tele-bickies." However, his defense was not nearly strong enough to stop the fire from blazing across the pages of the written novel. He acknowledged that it was his weakest book. He looked at his defenses and took them back. “Perhaps these are superficial excuses...

"Perhaps Bond's blatant heterosexuality is a subconscious protest against the current fashion for sexual confusion. Perhaps the violence springs from a psychosomatic rejection of Welfare wigs, teeth and spectacles and Bond's luxury meals are simply saying "no" to toad-in-the-hole and tele-bickies. Who can say? Who can say whether or not Dr. Fu Manchu was a traumatic image of Sax Rohmer's father? Who, for the matter of that, cares?...[But regardless,] Dr. No was very cardboardy and need not have been ... The trouble is that it is much more fun to think up fantastic situations and mix Bond up in them.”

Philip Stead would come in the warm receivers of the novel. He said "a less accomplished writer, lacking Mr. Fleming's quick descriptive gift and his powers of making his characters talk with such lucid and natural style, would never have got away with this story." Time Magazine would have their say, "not all readers will agree that Dr. No ... is magnificent writing, ... pages of it, at least, qualify for Ezra Pound's classic comment on Tropic of Cancer: 'At last, an unprintable book that is readable'."

The Washington Post called it "a thin little whodunit which rocked the British Empire and shook the English Establishment" He added that his group "Confidentially…enjoyed Dr. No, and if this be sick, sick, sick, gentlemen, make the most of it." The New York Hearald Tribune would help bring strength to the fight for Fleming, saying it was "the most artfully bold, dizzyingly poised thriller of the decade. You'd much better read it than read about it." But of course we have to have the villain, Anthony Boucher. "it's harder than ever to see why an ardent coterie so admires Ian Fleming's tales.” Said he. And it looked like some people were finally beginning to agree with him. "It is 80,000 words long,” he said, “with enough plot for 8,000 and enough originality for 800."

It looks as if our main protagonist may need to find a recovery. We’ll see if he can. Ian Fleming’s biography continued in a review for Goldfinger.

FROM NO, TO LOVE

The anticipation of the first official James Bond film began to build a year before the film was released. Eon sent newspapers box sets of the existing James Bond books (then about 10 entries), booklets detailing the summation of Bond’s character a pictures of Ursula Andress (the first Bond girl.) They also took advice from Yogurt and made tons of merchandise, tying the film in with tobacco, alcohol, cars and men’s clothing. The campaign also aimed to make Ian Fleming a well-known character, to make it clear that this release had been anticipated for longer than it actually had been. (Hence the tagline on the original poster: “THE FIRST JAMES BOND FILM!”)

Dr. No premiered on October 5th, 1962 in the London Pavilion, reaching the rest of the United Kingdom in only three days. It had its success in England and moved to make money over here in the States. Sean Connery and Terrence Young would do cross-country press screenings and interviews regarding the films. The campaign over in the United States cranked up the emphasis on sex and guns (no surprise there), which culminated in a poster that featured four scantly clothed women besides Bond and the gun shaped 007 logo…or at least an extremely early version of it.

Dr. No, much like its literary predecessor, would receive a very mixed reaction from critics. Time called Bond a "blithering bounder" and "a great big hairy marshmallow" who "almost always manages to seem slightly silly.” (I’m not surprised, that tarantula scene probably killed everybody back then too.) Stanley Kauffman would add onto this, saying "never decides whether it is suspense or suspense-spoof." Stanley was well known for being against Sean Connery and Ian Fleming.

The condemnation climaxed when The Vatican banned the film for sexuality and the cruelty inflicted by James Bond. They were joined by the Kremlin who summarized the story as the personification of capitalist evil. Luckily this really just boomed the audience numbers for the film from the publicity. It found itself at a profit, on a budget of merely $1 Million, it ended up grossing $59.6 Million between its releases in The United Kingdom, The United States and Jamaica. This number is slightly inflated for re-releases, but if you want something more believable - $2 Million was earned in Britain upon its first run. That’s good money.

Positive reception would come. The Daily Express commented that "Dr No is fun all the way, and even the sex is harmless.” The Observer said it was "full of submerged self-parody" and The Guardian called it "crisp and well-tailored…a neat and gripping thriller." In the years that have followed, Dr. No has been listed highly as one of the best Bond films, and Ursula Undress has often been called the sexiest of the bond girls – her bikini from the film being sold for $61,500 in 2001 ($78064.37 now.)

With the kind of money they were making – try nearly 60x their original budget – it was gospel truth that United Artists would greenlight another James Bond movie, and that they did. They doubled the budget (not like they couldn’t have afforded to up the budget by 30x) and gave Sean Connery a $100,000 bonus. ($733,430.86 now.) While success in the US was notable, it was nothing compared to the success in the United Kingdom. Their next goal was to try to reach out the audience in that nation, and no easier way than to attract the attention of their leader. It should have already been stated that From Russia with Love was one of THE PRESIDENT’S favorite books.

The majority of the crew was on board the second time around, with the major exceptions of production designer Ken Adam, who went to work on Dr. Strangelove with Stanley Kubrick. Bob Simmons, infamous for the stunts in the last movie, was too traumatized by the damn tarantula and was replaced with Peter Perkins. John Barry, who had previously worked on the soundtrack, left the crew and was replaced with Monty Norman, who was the backbone to the soundtrack of the first film anyhow.

Originally the screenwriting department was also meant to have an overhaul, sources stating that Len Deighton was meant to write the film. He procrastinated. So they brought back the original writers in Johanna Harwood and Richard Maibaum. Harwood would have handled adaptation of Fleming’s ideas to be incorporated into Maibaum’s finished script. Johanna would leave the series after this second installment, upset that Terrence Young had replaced so many of Fleming’s ideas with those of his own. Him and Richard would add new chase scenes, change the evil organization from SMERSH to SPECTRE, and change the finale’s location from Paris to Venice.

Casting is a little of a maze to navigate. Major Boothroyd was re-casted from Peter Burton to Desmond Llewelyn (Hamlet, Gorgo, Curse of the Werewolf, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and every other James Bond movie through the 20th century.) He was chosen as a fan of the Bond comic strips, yet was uncredited in the opening scenes and just “Llewelyn” in the exits. His character became “Q” due to the way “M” refers to him over the intercom. Also uncredited was ??? as Number One.

Tatiana, the next Bond girl, was considered to be played by numerous persons  such as Sylva Koscina, Virna Lisi, Annette Vadim, and Tania Mallet. Sean Connery would eventually chose his own Bond girl this time around, and it was none other than Daniela Biachi who was chosen. She began to learn English, but this took too long for those too short, and thus it was chosen that she would have her voice dubbed over like the last Bond girl. Her screen test would be to be found in her bedroom by Number One, a screen test that became the same for every Bond girl since then.

Katina Paxinou (For Whom the Bell Tolls) was originally chosen to be Rosa Klebb, but Lotte Lenya won the role after Terrence Young heard some of her musical talent. When looking at Kronsteen, he wanted somebody not audibly talented by visibly remarkable, so that the audience could easily remember a minor character. Vladek Shaybel was chosen for this role. After Aliza Gur and Martine Beswick were chosen as minor characters, they spent the rest of their time beating the everlasting shit out of Peter Perkins.

Before the cast was completely filled – though close enough to start filming the majority of the film – the cast rushed to Istanbul, Turkey. They weren’t able to film too much of the film there, as the British film funding act at the time dictated that the film must be filmed 70% in Great Britan/The Commonwealth in order to receive funding. So the journey and “truck ride” were shot in Scotland, and a scene originally slated to be filmed in Topkapi Palace was now filled to be filmed in a replica at Pinewood Studios, along with scenes of James Bond while he actually supposed to be in England. They would film the end scenes in Venice, being that you couldn’t film wild rats in England – for some reason.

Terrence Young would go to great lengths to try to emulate some sense of realism. Kronsteen would win his opening chess match in a $150,000 re-enactment of Boris Spassky won over David Bronstein in 1960. Tear gas bombs would be extremely sensitive to how they were opened – which should say in itself that Connery should be thankful they weren’t actually gas bombs. This film also featured a AR-7 Sniper Rifle that had ammo limited to 20, not the infinite ammo we see in instant classics such as Hobo With a Shotgun.

Terrence would also enhance the realism of the physical fights. He was a boxer at University of Cambridge and was able to choreograph fights between Bond and Grant. By the time Terrence was done with them Bond and Grant were reaching for life with a string and a prayer, but after much worry from the crew (actually) they got off their feet and did most of the stunts with Young nowhere to be found. Reports are that he was claimed to have said he was going to “beat the crap out of that no good son of a muffin.” Although the last word was slightly muffled under the ears of our witnesses.

John Ford, a prolific but not remembered director, told Terrence Young that he should cast Pedro Armendariz to play the role of Kerim Bey. So he did. And Pedro got royally screwed over. He ended up being diagnosed with Cancer in Istanbul, which caused the crew to immediately terminate production of Turkish scenes and move over to England again. Pedro finished his work, an unfortunate choice, which led him to so much misery as to take his own life after the production was finished. The things some people do. REST IN PEACE, May 9 1912 – June 18 1963.

The crew continued to be resourceful. The opening scene was done with a stunt double, and Peter Hunt began to edit the film before shooting was finished. The briefing with Bloefeld was rewritten as well as Lotte Lenya’s lines being filmed with back projection. They were kind of rushing, over budget and over schedule, racing to meet the deadline of the premiere date – let alone the date they were supposed to be finished. So Terrence Young got on his helicopter in search of mercy, and ended up being crashed into the ocean with art directors and cameramen on board. The craft sank 50 feet down, but thankfully the worst came with minor injuries.

Bianchi’s car driver had also gotten drunk and fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed the car into a living tree, causing the filming to be delayed by two weeks to that the tree could recover. Terrence Young, the unbelievably resourceful bastard he was, turned these two events into the film’s climax. Reworking the car chase into a boat chase, and eliminating the singing tree. He justified his decision by noting North by Northwest and The Red Beret. They attempted to film the boat scene in Istanbul at one point, but the boat sunk with a bunch of cameras, so they ran for the hills and went to Scotland.

For snatching a helicopter at a local base, they were arrested and filmed the unreleased music video Re-Arranged, to be plagiarized by Limp Bizkit years later. After being released from jail, the crew wound up buying a toy helicopter from a local toy store and using that to film the film’s film. They also had to re-record boat sounds became Terrence wanted the volume to be pumped up to 11….or should I say the volume was pumped up to 007? Or should I say that this film introduced both 007 and James Bond is Back, two of the most famous secondary theme songs for the dude.

Well, it’s here. We’re in London, England at the Odeon Leicester Square. It’s October 10th, 1963. We’re seeing a premiere of the new James Bond movie. Will it be With Love, or is it a case of what is coming From Russia should have stayed where it have come from?

FROM ₡₳$h₥₳₦, WITH LOVE

From the moment the film starts we get a view of the SPECTRE mentality. Vengeance is their lifeblood, failure is unacceptable, and people are expendable. If it wasn’t clear that the Bond franchise has been over ripped-off in the previous film…or even if it was…I find ease in saying the pop culture that has used this material or aspects of this material in parody or seriousness is not easily listed. We may have seen this used over and over now, but, back in the day, the heartlessness of Number One was hardcore. The guy has absolutely no sympathy for people, and you begin to question why such a man would even continue life. You wonder why these agents would have joined this faction in the first place. No, that’s not a plot hole. It would be if they were happy to be in this faction, but clearly they’re afraid, intimidated, and unbelieving of their goals. They’re frightened, brainwashed soldiers. That’s hardcore. If this wasn’t enough, the fact that he is shrouded in mystery for the entire film only enhances to his emotional seclusion. It makes him feel less…human.

SPECTRE is clearly a giant underground organization, not taken down easily, and as one would guess, not taken down here. While the size is hinted at in Dr. No, From Russia with Love makes it clear that there is no antagonist more important than SPECTRE in this franchise, setting a continuous threat for many films to come. It makes the series feel important. Like if there’s going to be a bunch of sequels, it’s not just going to be dragged out beyond belief. The stakes are raised so high – worldwide – that any amount of film could not relieve us of our suspense or the franchise of its storytelling.

And it isn’t just SPECTRE either. We see the British Intelligence quarters operate outside of the time when Bond is with them, making the people who work there seem much more important to the plot and more like living people interacting with the universe instead of just puppets being used to move along the script like the last film. The relationship between Bond and Moneypenny is elaborated on, how she is slowly radiating away from Bond due to his multiple relationships that she clearly knows about. She’s not left him yet (that’s a little hard to believe, admittedly) but the precedent for drama is set in motion.

Speaking of the ladies, is it not necessary to talk about the girls in a Bond movie? Yeah, if Eon was looking to amp up the sexuality in this movie…they succeeded. Clearly. I’d double-check your testosterone if you didn’t have an awkward boner for at least 2/3rds of the movie. Does this help the movie in any other way? No, not really, why would it? The reason that they were added is because sex sells, and damn if it didn’t here. Some of that must have gone into making nearly 40x the original budget.

The main Bond girl herself, Tatiana Romanova, is quite the sight for sore eyes herself. She’s really sexy, but she’s definitely not that kind of stripper hot, I wouldn’t even call her model hot. She looks like a legitimately beautiful girl and not what people want you think is beautiful, which may have been a discrepancy to Ursula in the last movie to a minor degree. Quite obviously she has an awesome name and her relationship with Bond is standard, easily better than the first one, but in the end will we remember her? Probably not. She doesn’t stand out that much, especially when put next to all other Bond girls.

You can’t talk about a Bond girl without mentioning Bond. Sean Connery returns and he puts in a performance very similar to his last one; the wisest choice he made. Still the character has changed slightly. Not changed, that may have been the wrong word. More like expanded on. In the last movie we saw him be a ladies man by getting the ladies, but in this movie not only does he get ladies he has already gotten many more fold of them in the past. Instantly you imply a ton of Bond’s backstory and characterization just by showing Sylvia Trench in the beginning and implying they had been together since before Dr. No. (Yeah I know she was there before but they do a better job of showing it here.)

We also get to see a much more mean side of Bond. He has a tendency to put his work before his women, in such instances as slapping Sylvia’s hang when he is on the phone and she’s trying to get flirty. Or when Bond threatens to beat the crap out of Tatiana to get information. Yeah, at that point I was considering what Bernard Bergonzi Garbanzo Beans had to say. This may have not been the greatest choice for the character, being a protagonist, especially a protagonist who had come under so much controversy. But I think it may have ended up working well, showing Bond as not a perfect character, not always suave, he sometimes does have his episodes when he comes under stress and confusion.

Speaking of stress, the fight scenes are definitely an improvement compared to the last movie. They’re less about the chasing and the running and more about the tightly edited and tightly choreographed actions taken. Tension is higher and built with a better sense of audience attention, and the fighting itself is more realistic than a giant chase scene through a maze. The scene where Bond fights Red Grant for the first time is awesome, and the boat chase is quick but has enough continuity and a legitimate lack of obviousness to have served as a model for Bond climaxes and chase scenes in general for many years to come.

There is one really jarring problem with this movie. The editing is really lazy. I understand why that happened, after all, you just had a guy die making your movie, and you were rushing to meet a deadline. But sometimes it gets kind of stupid. There’s a scene where the helicopter crashes 15-25 seconds before it should have, with no impact sound heard. Or the scenes with the green screen, those looked really fake, more fake than its predecessor and disappointing for its timeframe and budget. And that last shot…that left a super cheesy taste in my mouth for an overall really good movie.

While Dr. No was probably the perfect way to begin the James Bond series give or take, From Russia with Love is exactly how you begin your continuation. Keep everything that worked and expand upon it to the enth degree, work and tinker with what didn’t work but don’t just throw out things and act like they didn’t exist. Unless the setting calls for it, which is acceptable and does happen at points. Sean Connery is a badass as usual, the girls are hot, the rest of the cast is made to feel important, the actions scenes are awesome, and while the editing may add to it in an unfavorable way, the cheesiness as a whole really adds to the charm of the movie. The second James Bond movie proved to be one of the most important, re-introducing how villains and gadgets would be important throughout the rest of the franchise. The film gets a well-deserved 4.7/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: Appendages 007

Atragon (1963)

"You are a war ghost rotting in a shell called patriotism."

Most Kaiju fans know this movie exists because it is the first appearance of Manda, who later appeared in Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars. Most people in the world...don't know this movie exists. Unless they know a guy who's super into monster movies. Going into this movie, even for the second time, I'm still weirded out at how different it is. This is a time where I ought to explain the premise...it's a fun one, no doubt. You see, a long time ago the Pacific Ocean was not so...oceanic...instead, it was filled with a mega continent. Like, a continent taking up about a third of the average world map.

This continent is home to a super successful race of people basically used to own the world. But one day, they sink. That's right. One of two really stupid parts of the movie - one day, out of nowhere, an entire continent sinks into the Earth. Sooooo much contradiction with science. This might be one of the worst scientific plot holes in movie history, up there with Gorath's plot to take the Earth and push it somewhere else. Anyways, after they sink, they slowly collect slaves for their society to keep it in shape. Why these slaves are exclusively Japanese is anybody's guess...I don't know, maybe they make good sea food.*

*I am such a jackass.

This leads to them kidnapping a old war veteran named Jinguji. He was one of the big players in his quadrant of the army during the war. It's estimated that he was kidnapped in 1943, considering it happened "twenty years ago" and this movie was made in 1963. He has left his daughter and orphan and has brought plans to the undersea empire - named the Mu. (Because calling them Moo would have taken away from the movie.) The Mu plan to use his blueprints to make ATRAGON, also known as GOTENGO, to take over the world and reclaim "the colonies."

This and much more is told within the first half an hour. Which actually leads to one of the movie's faults. The pacing. The first ten or fifteen minutes is mostly just the protagonists going "HUH? Whut just happened?" Once they get down in the ocean you hear the entire backstory within 15 minutes. That's not very good pacing. You'd expect, at the very least, they would have hidden one secret detail that would be revealed at the end. But, nope. Our antagonists spill the beans quickly and immediately. That's smart. Well, at least you can say that it wasn't technically the Mu, it was Mr. Jinguji. But that's a poor excuse, with him being allied with the Mu.

Two huge daggers in the pacing make themselves apparent around the one hour mark. Manda is slowly hinted at but isn't shown until this time. Now, that would have been really cool - if it weren't for the fact he looks like a derp. Seriously. You know, how he shows up in Final Wars is really cool, serious yet ancient, modern yet appealing to the old myths in this area. He's okay in Destroy All Monsters, just kind of a giant tapeworm. But here...oh my God. His first outing was not the best. He looks like if Barney the Dinosaur was a snake. The first shot of his head will have you laughing out loud. WOW.

 You can clearly see what he's made of, and it looks like a combo of every Sesame Street character in existence. LOOK AT HIS WHISKER. That's hilarious. He has such a derpy look on his face, his eyes make him look like a drug addict...yeah, this is stupid. The only redeeming thing about this character is his build-up and his death. He is the messenger of God. What else do you need? His death, I won't spoil it for you. But it looks legitimately agonizing. It's the one scene where I can say Manda has ever been a real actor and not just a puppet or a CGI effect. It's just...sad. Hint: it's similar to the end of Son of Godzilla.

The other huge dagger in the pacing is the fact that the climax happens approximately at an hour in - even though the movie is nearly 100 minutes long. Obviously most movies are going to have a calm period after the climax, and it can be very long sometimes. This isn't an example of that. This is an example of the movie wanting one scene to be the most exciting and having another one actually be so. So you get very pumped at what was intended to be the build, and then start relaxing during the intended climax. I'm not sure what the Hell went wrong, and I'm not going to jump the gun and blame the writer or the editor - but it was one of the two.

Now let's start talking about some of the positives. I really like how in-depth the story is. Despite the fact it's mostly crammed into one part of the movie and just repeated throughout the rest because of poor pacing, I still love the ideas thrown out here. An old man who has become hypnotized by patriotism conflicting with a group of jaded young men and women who have no concept of patriotism or war. It's a really interesting conflict that doesn't really feature a right or wrong - just two very passionate sides of the argument. I really wish this was expanded more because this could be Academy Award type of stuff if done properly.

The acting is pretty okay. I never felt like they were treating me like I was an idiot, like I did sometimes in Varan or The H-Man. Everybody felt perfectly honest in this movie. I didn't like their speech patterns or their body movements, but that probably has something to do with the fact I think I've met two or three Japanese people personally in my life. I would hope that they aren't exaggerating their performances, because it doesn't seem like it to me. The only thing is that sometimes, when it's time to get really emotional, they kind of fake it. They're really good at being calm and collected...which can get boring after too long, honestly.

Unlike The H-Man, we have a return of Akira Ifukube for the soundtrack....CLEARLY. It's all stock music. Stock music you've heard a million times in other Toho monster movies. This was around the time producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was becoming very business oriented - he pushed Manda being in the movie for the sole reason of marketing. The soundtrack and some of the editing definitely shows a rushed production. It's too bad they never had a Toho Kaiju Avenger for editing. At least it isn't like Latitude Zero. That's an example of some really poor editing techniques right there.

And that's Atragon for you. Clearly another example of a movie that desperately needs a remake. I like the actors and I love the story, but the pacing of the movie, the editing, the script, the monster and the soundtrack bring it down. I think, unlike The H-Man, some stuff is done to it's fullest potential. It is definitely worth a viewing even if you're not a Kaiju fan. If you don't like it, though, I can't blame you in the slightest. 3.5/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Dr. No (1962)

Enter Sean Connery

IAN FLEMING BUILDS A FRANCHISE

In January of 1953, still four months before we saw official publications of the first Bond novel, Ian started work on his second. He had taken vacations recently to both St. Petersburg, Florida and New York City. He was going to try to make a much more serious story than the previous gambling thriller (not to say that isn’t also highly entertaining.) The original title for the book was called The Undertaker’s Wind. With ideas in mind, he began research and writing immediately so that he could complete the novel before Casino Royale was even published. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen of the United Kingdom. Four months or less. His moves were unknowingly wise, as previously mentioned, his first novel sold like hotcakes, so publisher Jonathon Cape offered him a contract for three further Bond novels.

Ian Fleming attempted to make his second novel more of a personal story. For an example of a minor detail, when Bond landed in the airport, he would draw upon his own experiences at airports to create the scene. The scene where Bond gets attacked by a shark at a warehouse was inspired by Mr. and Mrs. Fleming’s own non-shark based adventures at warehouses. Felix Leiter had the last name of a personal friend of Ian’s named Tommy Leiter. The character would take his middle name from Ian’s friend Ivar Bryce, who would have his first and last used for Bond’s alias. Ian used his scuba-diving experience to draw Bond’s swim to Mr. Big’s Boat. Fleming would also use voodoo information from his friend’s book, The Traveler’s Tree by Patrick Farmer.

The Undertaker’s Wind was published as Live and Let Die on April 5th, 1954, half a year before the first Bond movie. It was being met with extremely good reception. It sold out immediately from its 7,500 copy run and a re-print was commissioned. Live and Let Die, unlike Casino Royale, was met with critical acclaim. You can find many primary source examples of positive criticism, from The Sunday Times, The Times, The Sunday (maybe not that one), The Times Literary Supplement, The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, so on and so forth. The only backlashes of this novel came from The New York Times, which wasn’t even that harsh, and the novel being banned in Ireland, which helped generate publicity.

But it would appear that Fleming still had a contractual obligation for a third bond novel. What of it? Here is Ian Fleming himself with the answer: "[It] was written in January and February 1954 and published a year later. It is based on a film script I…had in my mind for many years. [I] wanted to make Moonraker [my] most ambitious and personal novel yet." Before he could elaborate more, Anthony Terry pulled Ian from the studio, claiming that “[he had yet to finish his homework.]”

Ian would take on a subject matter that took on a much more technical sense, thus requiring heavy research on a topic he had not much experience with but was highly fascinated with due to his military time. He would gain his information on V-2 Rockets (the first launched rockets for the sake of warfare, not to mention the first to enter space) and German Werewolves. He would also pay a visit to psychiatrist Dr. E.B. Straus for information on megalomania (bloated sense of importance) and also came away with information about diastema (space between the two front teeth.)

Ian would reincorporate previous elements of his personal life into this next novel, as well as many others. Hugo Drax was named after his old acquaintance Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, also known as ASRARPE2D, also known as ASS RAPED 3-D, also known as Joe. Duff Sutherland was turned into one of the bridge players playing at Blades. He would also draw inspiration from the T-Force, which as mentioned in the 1954 Casino Royale review, would find itself to owe its creation along with Jimmy Bond.

The novel Moonraker found Bond solely in Britan. This was giving the opportunity for Fleming to write solely about his homeland. Although he had owned estates in the Kingdom, he went to great lengths to get minor details right, even those that could change with the passing minute. He had his stepson, Raymond O’Neill, to time a journey from London to Deal. He drew upon his memberships at English clubs as Boodle’s, White’s and Portland to enhance the details of the Blades scenes.

The hardest detail to decide on was, oddly, the novel’s name. Though most potential titles included a mention of Moonraker – such as The Moonraker Secret, The Moonraker Plot, Bond & The Moonraker, The Moonraker Scare and The Moonraker Plan - there were many other interesting titles that did not include the word, such as The Inhuman Element, Wide of the Mark, The Infernal Machine, Mondays are Hell, Hell is Here and Out of Clear Sky.  Before the book was published, Jonathon Payne attempted to find film rights for the film, but these plans fell through. The Rank Organization attempted again but with no success.

On April 5th, 1955, exactly a year after the publication of Live and Let Die, Moonraker was published. It was met with highly mixed reviews. Julia Symons of The Times Literary Supplement found the book a disappointment, going to say "Fleming's tendency ... to parody the form of the thriller, has taken charge in the second half of this story." The Spectator would say that it was highly disgraceful, and extremely delightful. Anthony at The New York Times said that he wished for a return to gambling from Casino Royale. But for the most part, you can find many primary sources of good reviews, from New Statesmen to The Observer to The Listener.

So then, where are we now? There’s a trilogy of Bond films. Ian Fleming has released his first hit, gotten his contract for three further bond novels, and even had a film contract. But…there’s still one book left in that contract, isn’t there? Need us no more than get in my time machine to 1954 and pick up an edition of The Sunday Times. There’s a diamond robbery in Sierra Leone. And over there, it’s Ian Fleming, talking to Percy Sillitoe, the ex-head of MI5, who works for diamond traders now. And…now he’s writing a book…no, actually, two books.

In August 1954 Ian Fleming went on a “research trip” to a spa town named Saratoga Springs. He traveled with two friends, the previously mentioned Ivar Bryce and the newly mentioned Ernest Cuneo, who was later imported into this next novel, to be named “Ernie Cureo.” While writing the book and driving at the same time, Ian took a wrong turn and ended up at some backwards ass place that eventually became the feeding lands for Norman Bates. But at the moment, it was the feeding grounds of William Woodward Jr., the darndest shootest roughin’ toughin’ cowboy of the…refined land of England.

In William’s thingmabober with a Cadillac engine, he said "the speed and comfort of it impresse[s me], and [I shall] shamelessly [burglarize] this car." He proceeded to shoot William Woodward, blame it on William’s wife who blamed it on a prowler, and attempted to cover his tracks by dedicating the book to the dude. Then they went gambling. There they met Captain James Hamilton, who gave them important information on the mafia. He then met with the hotel owner about the security systems and such.

Jonathon Cape published Diamonds are Forever on March 26th, 1956, this time making sure the original printing was 5,000 more strong. Still sold out like hotcakes. It was sold in the USA as well as the other books had, but this time was also made into a cereal, which buffed up sales a ton. The reviews, however, were very mixed. Julia Symons talked about his ability to describe and his knowledge of gambling, but thought his style was poor. Milward Kennedy saw the determination in the novel, and Maurice Richardson thought that Bond was “one of the most cunningly synthesised heroes in crime-fiction.”

Raymond Chandler probably was the most positive, saying that it was about the nicest piece of book-making in this type of literature which I have seen for a long time ... Mr. Fleming writes a journalistic style, neat, clean, spare and never pretentious.” (How do critics get away with dat kinda vocab?) Anthony Boucher, known for being an anti-Bond man, did say that "Mr. Fleming's handling of American and Americans is well above the British average,” but criticized the narrative as “loose-jointed and weakly resolved.” Nevermind the bollocks, here comes James Bond. Ian Fleming’s sequel trilogy had been completed with extreme success, and Jonathon Cape wouldn’t let his most prized property escape so easily. Ian Fleming’s biography to be continued in a review for From Russia, With Love

ENTER EON

Harry Saltzman. Somehow, someway, in some odd land---oh yeah, the franchise was insanely popular. Harry Saltzman, at some point, received the license to adapt one of the James Bond books. But he was all like “fuck diz shit,” and put the project on indefinite hold. Albert Broccoli (I swear I did not make that name up), who was sitting in the corner creepily, decided to run up to Harry and beg for an opportunity. At first Harry was like “fuck diz shit” but Broccoli was so persistent that eventually it was a matter of life or death, to which Harry agreed to form of a partnership. Saltzman created Danjaq Productions, which would hold rights to the movies, and Eon Productions, which would produce. The project then became a matter of finding funders. Most people were either racist or ninety years old, probably both, finding the stories too British and too sexual.

Eventually United Artists was like “we haven’t had a 1958 and that was an alien movie. We could use anything.” And whilte this meant they would get some funding, it was only some. United Artists only offered a million dollars, and then added another hundred thousand for the climax. That’s approximately $8,238,049.47 in today’s money. If you didn’t notice anything under 80 million these days is considered a B-Movie. Because of this only one sound editor was hired, and the credits were only created once. When one of the crew members found out that he wasn’t in the credits, Saltzman compensated by buying him a solid gold pen. Personally I find this is getting kind of funny. They made the villain’s office out of leather and plastic, and the aquarium at Dr. No’s house being no more than stock footage of magnified goldfish.

In writing for the film, The Great Broccoli had originally requested the team of Richard Maibaum (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and his wolf. This decision was partially made because the wolf had bitten off Saltzman’s balls attempting to get Broccoli a license, and for this The Great Broccoli was eternally grateful. However, this partnership was rejected when they turned Dr. No into a monkey. The Broccoli blamed Richard on the faults, and as it turned out he was right, the wolf actually wrote a better script. But the wolf ran away from home before the movie ever got finished.

To write a third draft, The Great Broccoli brought in Johanna Harwood and her mother. Johanna just so happened to be a doctor, and performed heart surgery on the script, reducing cholesterol and adding proteins. (In other words, making the script closer to the book.) Even though her operation was a success, she did not manage to include some very important ingredients, such as a one-on-one fight with a giant squid. (No kidding on that one.) The original tarantula was replaced with a centipede, and Dr. Julius No was significantly made into a more chill dude.

Now it was time to actually make the movie. At first they wanted to adapt Thunderball, but there were legal issues going on between the screenplay writer and Ian Fleming. We will get to that in more detail later. So they went to Dr. No, thinking that the story would work perfectly in…I don’t know…1962! Does Cape Canaveral sound familiar? Does Cuba sound familiar?...In looking for a director, they had tried many options. Guy Green, Guy Hamilton, Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment), and Ken Hughes (Shitty Shitty Bang-Bang) were all considered for the role of director.

But the man they eventually selected to become the executer of 007 was none other than Terence Young, a man who had tons of experience with directing Broccoli. They felt that, being he could direct Broccoli super well, he ought to be able to direct human beings. He did so with class and extra attributes which have carried on in Bond throughout history. He found a lot of the sex and violence would not get past the censors, so to counteract this, quite simply, he took the mickey out and inserted the tongue in the cheek. He found that the moment you do this, you disarm the offensiveness of the subject.

With everybody behind the scenes fully assembled, the next mission was to find people who would be in front of not only a camera, but stock footage of a magnified goldfish. (Seriously how did this become so successful again?) Cary Grant, known for His Girl Friday and North by Northwest, was approached for the role of James Bond, but The Great Broccoli said “fuck it” knowing that Cary would only do one movie instead of a bloated series. Richard Johnson, known for Zombi 2 and The Haunting, wanted to play the part of James Bond, but turned around as soon as he got on stage knowing that The United Artists were coming for him.

Patrick McGoohan was nominated, but rejected on the grounds of nonexistence. It’s also notable to note that notably the noteworthy man noted as David Niven was noted to be noted in the notes of Dr. Notes, whom was noted to note The Pink Panther trio of notes and, on a darker note, Vampira. There are also seven secret stories summoned by surprised superfans who sought to seek some semblance of truth in this story. One of these stories goes that Richard Todd (Dorian Gray) was nominated by Ian Fleming. It’s also rumored that Roger Moore (Sherlock Holmes in New York) was spotted having tea with Ian.

He was rejected for the exact same reasons the movie was rejected by many producers.

They finally turned to the most desperate attempt known for franchises like Godzilla (interesting numbers you got there) and had contests. They were hosted by Ian Fleming, Schwarzenegger (I’m not gonna bother remembering his real name) and The Great Broccoli. They chose a 28 year old man named Peter Anthony, who was noted for having an extraordinarily Gregory Peck quality, but died under stage fright. That didn’t work out to well. So they turned to a 30 year old man who is worshiped in The Book of Camololism amongst God, God-ah, Old God, Zeus, and The Great Lesbian Camel in the Sky.

Sean Connery, ladies and gentlemen. He was contracted for five films, and showed up to the studios in a bloody mess. Nevertheless, he acted his heart out, which would have Broccoli saying "[he] put on an act and it paid off” using a macho and devil-may-care attitude. By the end of the day Broccoli and Schwarzenegger found him so impressive that they watched him stalker-like with admiration, bribing him with tailors, restaurants, casinos, hairdressers, women, and several things that probably end up being a mix of two or more. Raymond Benson would say that he was being trained "in the ways of being dapper, witty, and above all, cool."

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would just like this time to thank everybody who made this possible and remind us all that there’s never been a movie called James Bond. So naturally in each movie, we’re going to have to cast more people. Enter Honey Ryder. She has first been considered to be executed by Julie Christie (Troy, Doctor Zhivago), but discarded for her small breasts. They needed two big breasts, like Mickey Rourke. So they turned to Ursula Andress (or to the directors Ass-a-lot Undress.) She was overdubbed by a German speaker and tanned for the sake of looking Jamaican.

Dr. Julius No would be first considered by Ian Fleming to be played by Noel Coward, who would reply with “NO! NO! NO!” Clever in the most remote of senses. Joseph Wiseman was eventually chosen by Schwarzenegger due to his performance sin Detective Story and The Unforgiven. Naturally, he would be fitted for Chinese blackskin….yellowskin?...WOW, I wholeheartedly apologize to anybody who found that offensive. That was bad. That was really, really bad. And that is why it is staying in the review for all of eternity to come. CHINA, LAND OF GIANT BRIDGES.

Felix Leiter was cast as Jack Lord, who asked for a bunch of money after filming the first movie, and was then kicked out of a window and murdered. Bernard Lee was casted as M, who would go on to do the same for ten movies, and Lois Maxwell was played to play M’s sidekick, which he would do for another fourteen movies. Ian Fleming saw Bernard as a "prototypical father figure" and Maxwell because what the Hell is an elephant and a rhino together? Lois was also offered the role of Sylvia Trench, but she opted out for fear of overt sexuality and possible broccoli molestation.

Eunice Gayson got the role of Sylvia Trench, and she became Bond’s “girlfriend” for the next six films. Missed opportunity seems to be a theme in this thing. This one isn’t as bad, though, as she quit after the second one. She was cast because Terence Young new her, saying that “you always bring me luck in my films…[and the boobies. The boobies are pretty nice too.]” It should also be mentioned there was a bunch of other things, but these things had been intercepted by other things that happened later or just pure luck and I was too damn lazy to type any of it out.

With everybody gathered, the crew set out to run away to London, but they got kicked out for murder and molestation, so they ran back to Jamaica. They arrived in Jamaica on January 16th, 1962, five days and fifty years ago. They shot fairly close the Goldeneye estate where the author would regularly visit the crew. After enjoying their stay and building a Dragon, they went off to Oracabessa, a place none of you know and none of you should know. Unless you live in Jamaica. In that case it’s in St. Mary’s. On the 21st of February, production came to a halt due to Star Wars syndrome – in other words, bad weather.

They moved back to England, specifically Pinewood Studios (why was that not Elstree?) where they got Ken Adam (Dr. Strangelove) to do some set design. They did a bunch of random stuff, throwing money at each other, thankfully never having any get eaten or burnt by their dragon. In filming the scene with the tarantula, Sean wimped out and needed protection, which made the scene shit, so they interspliced it with scenes from a real manly woman named Bob Simmons. He would later go on to describe the scene as the most terrifying thing he ever did, and there was a damn Dragon on set. Not to mention frozen pornographic crabs.

It should be noted that the crew hired a 60 year old amateur to steal Goya’s Portrait of Duke of Wellington. Apparently the museum had no problems with this. Probably because Peter R. Hunt, the editor, would go about adding fast motions and tons of quick cuts in order to prevent anybody from noticing plot holes. Which is good, because if they did, we would probably all be dead by now. He also said something about it "mov[ing] fast[er] and push[ing[ it along the whole time, while giving it a certain style" Finally, it should be noted that Maurice Binder was the one who came up with the barrel opening. It was done by legitimately putting a miniature camera inside of a .38 calibre gun, with Bob Simmons playing Bond.

Monty Norman was contacted by Schwarzenegger to do the soundtrack for this film, but only accepted after promises of a free vacation. He was awfully lazy though, as he was more focused on musicals, which either speaks to his talent or our lack of desire for quality. In fact, the iconic James Bond theme was reworked on another one of his composures, which was already based on a rearrangement by John Barry. David Arnold would say it was "bebop-swing vibe coupled with that vicious, dark, distorted electric guitar, definitely an instrument of rock 'n' roll ... it represented everything about the character you would want: It was cocky, swaggering, confident, dark, dangerous, suggestive, sexy, unstoppable. And he did it in two minutes."

Production finished on the 30th of March.

ENTER DR. NO

From the opening to the closing of the film it’s quite obvious that the budget was measured in wealth using a lizard and a sandwich. (Or a ham and a matt.) Between the credits, the tarantula scene, and the goldfish, there are some really hilariously bad moments in this movie. (Especially the tarantula scene.) But for the majority of the movie, it looks aesthetically…gorgeous. In the beginning scenes we have lovely recreations of British furnishings from around the time that really accentuate the mood of the beginning and character of Bond. The location shots are absolutely gorgeous and make me wanna go to Florida right the fuck now.  

Between the way it’s filmed and the natural beauty of the area, I constantly found myself wanting to jump in the water. Dr. No’s hideout is super atmospheric, and to borrow a description from Bond himself, like if a prison was first class…and a 1930’s horror themed acid trip with tie-dye colors. My favorite scene as far as how it looked was when Bond was in the tunnel. It might have been cursed by the green screen in a miniscule manner, but between the dark emptiness of the tunnel, the lack of music, and the sensory stimulations in the colors, it creates a calm sense of danger. That’s how you create suspense.

Well, part of it anyways. Another huge part of suspense is the dialogue. For the most part Dr. No features very well-written dialogue and scenes tightly edited and written. A perfect example would be when Professor Dent sneaks into Bond’s room and shoots a dummy. Although I gotta tell ya folks, the resolution to that scene was kind of weak. And for every three to five moments of “you have a license to kill, not get killed” you also have very awkward scenes with statements that make absolutely no sense. Thankfully there are probably no more than three or four of these moments in the movie, if you discount repetitions.

No suspense can be found without an interesting villain. We find this in Dr. Julius No. His presence is awesome. He finds himself at no doubt that he will succeed, every portion of his mentality is in complete hypnosis of his success. His voice is maybe not booming, but certainly powerful and assertive. I find the feeling that he was directed to come off as an Asian dictator who does not become weak by his power, and he successfully comes off as such. Which is odd because he really didn’t come off as Asian to me in any other ways than how he asserted himself.

Speaking of voices, Sean Connery is a very interesting specimen. I feel like in modern day, our image of Bond has been vastly shaped by the man, but maybe not to the degree I would suspect. His body figure is perfect for the role, pretty much everything in terms of details is just right, he moves like Bond moves, he talks suavely, but his voice is…not jiving with me. It’s super, super deep for Bond. I can understand why this would be beneficial. A deep voice would provide a subtly higher level of intimidation for the villain, and can be more attractive to women. But it’s…it feels wrong. It sounds like a guy who would narrate movie trailers. I never thought to myself that the guy who narrated movie trailers would look like James Bond. Who knew?

Being that this is an adaptation of the seventh book in the series, many of the characters, such as X and Moneypenny, get very improper introductions and are reserved to only following their standard duties. Of course this is due to the fact that, in novel form, these characters would already be known to the Bond universe, and if they were to take the time to introduce all of them the movie would be slowed down. But sometimes I still wish I got to know Felix Leiter a little better than I did. Or Moneypenny.  But maybe not X. With X I was find with what I got.

There are three other major characters in this story. Professor Dent is a geologist who secretly works for Dr. Julius No, but he is the least important of the major characters and honestly is just a weak minion stronger than the others. There is also Quarrel, a Cayman islander who is hired to do stuff. Being its 1962 and he is who he is, one could find some racial implications in him, but it’s 1962. It is so toned down compared to what he could be, he actually finds himself being a respectable character. I’ve seen 15x worse in mass media this year. They got a black guy to say "I was born to shuck and jive" on national television recently.

There is a trifecta of archetypes in Bond movies. Bond, the villain, and the girl. The girl is Honey Ryder. Firstly, she is extremely attractive. She is still probably one of the hottest Bond girls in the entire franchise and that’s when you’re dealing with a movie from 1962. Her personality is one that is simultaneously clichéd yet not practiced much in cinema. The girl who comes off as dumb to the main protagonist and, admittedly, the audience, but is actually more knowledgeable than anybody represented by those labels. Even after that, you get a lot of situations where it feels like Bond is taking care of Honey, and I just feel like this is the wrong movie for that kind of pairing. Not crushingly wrong, just “could’ve been a little better.”

I think a lot of the reason why some of the things don’t come off as entirely well-made is because of how often this movie is ripped off – and admittedly borrows from other material. Splicing other footage into an aquarium, the secret spy who falls in love with the native girl, the Asian villain, these are stereotypes overused in every Bond movie and numerous other animations and movies following Dr. No. It doesn’t completely suffer from its aging, but it ain’t exactly fine wine. By far the funniest scene – in the so bad it’s good kind of way – is when he gets attacked by the tarantula.

Let me tell you something. Tarantulas are not venomous, nor do they bite, they do batshit nothing. So when you take a protagonist, and make him more afraid of a tarantula than anything else, not to mention have him stomp it with his shoe like a woman, and cue the music in for this scene in a screwball fashion…it takes away from his credibility I also love how the thing is built up like some gigantic evil plot by Dr. No. Like it’s his method to create Bond’s ultimate demise. A fucking tarantula….Goddamit, Sean, I’ll never recover from that shit. In fact, I think this scene exhibits another potential problem with the film. The music in here is so off and no. Like, actually. I love the music itself, it’s legendary, you can’t deny it. But it’s edited oddly. You’ll have whole action scenes without any music whatsoever, but THE TARANTULA SCENE? Gotta make sure that sound editing is DAMN PERFECT.

I feel like taking a little clip of that and showing it to you wonderful people:

Haha…haha…regardless. I must stop before I find myself unable to talk about anything but THE GODDAMN TARANTULA….haha….HAHA….fucking, Psycho Sid must expand his offensive repetiour. ….I don’c….ajlkapjl................Dr. No is an awesome first edition. It laid ground for the franchise with its iconic theme, it’s super suave interpretation of Bond by Connery, a decent love interest, an awesome villain who sadly doesn’t get enough screentime, great dialogue and amazing aesthetic value. But an odd mixing of the music, a lot of fast editing, some useless characters, some really weird moments and aging have brought it down beyond the legacy it once held. But only by maybe 10%. 4/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next Time: Nations 007

Varan the Unbelievable (1958)

The first review of The Requestathon 2…this one brought to us by Teddy Chase

MAKING A FLYING SQUIRREL

In the 1950’s, Toho was making a new wave in exporting Japanese films to America.In 1955 they introduced America to the Samurai movie with Samurai I: Musashi Myamoto. In 1956 they successfully brought Gojira, Seven Samurai and Ikiru to the cinemas of the red, white and blue. In 1957 they also brought Rodan, Sword for Hire and Half Human (although that movie has sinced been banned every damn where.) Not to mention they would have released Godzilla Raids Again in America that year if it weren’t for hijacking in a boat and losing the costumes...which is slightly ridiculous, but we'll get to that one in time.

With their newfound success in American cinemas, they attempted to try to invade American television screens, a newly emerging industry that was being rumored to kill theaters. (Yeah, right.) They went back to black and white that they hadn’t used in two or three years for the small screen, and began to make Varan the Unbelievable to air on the ABC Network. They collected the classic Toho crew of director Ishiro Honda, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, writer Shinichi Sekizawa, SFX dude Eiji Tsuburaya, and composer Akira Ifukube. Essentially, the people responsible for Godzilla, period. You could call them the G-Force if you wanted to get cheesy.

They were pretty much set to go with American money backing the project. They filmed 80% of the film and the entirety of the score when the funds from America said “NOPE, NOPE, WE DON’T WANT NONE OF THIS!” Toho didn’t give up on the film though. They had a couple newbies write new scenes for the movie as well as rewrite the dialogue, and Ifukube to write new music for the movie. The idea was that this movie would get a theatrical release. They had to re-crop the movie to Toho Scope (approximately twice the ratio of full screen) and continue to use black and white film. This…caused…problems. To say the least. The movie saw a release in Toho in 1958, but would be delayed in release to America until 1962.

In 2005 Toho released a CD and DVD for Varan the Unbelievable in Japan. The CD included the entire TV score in addition to the theatrical score. The DVD included the original TV version with the full audio and the majority of the video. It revelaed the original was meant to just be 54 minutes with a 6 minute commercial break halfway through. The theatrical Japanese version added 32 minutes to the movie, while the American cut reduced the additions to 16 minutes…well, actually, the American cut was completely different.

They shot an entirely new movie. They added two new main characters and built the story around that. The shots with Varan were minimal. After they re-cut the film, there weren’t any lines of dialogue to dub over. They also re-wrote the entire score, erasing Akira Ifukube’s music. They removed all scenes with Varan flying (like removing all scenes where Godzilla breathes fire in Gigantis the Fire Monster.) Varan’s name is not mentioned, however is called Obaki in one scene, which is a word that means Monster. Finally, they brought stock footage from Godzilla, King of the Monsters to buff up the movie, using footage where the city is destroyed by Varan.

So, I have three different versions of the movie to choose from. Hmm…why not do the most obscure one?

FLYING SQUIRREL TV INC.

Did I say that they recovered the majority of the video? Heh…heh. Yeah. No. They recovered enough so that the story was still intact, but the cuts are pretty abrupt. First off, the very VERY beginning of the movie is missing. It’s before the title credits, and I suspect it’s the “Toho” logo. Which makes me wonder why they didn’t just replace it with another Toho intro from the same time…or if it’s something else. Anyways, we’ll never know. In fact, it’s kind of a miracle that this is here in the first place. A generally hated 50’s Kaiju flick that most people don’t know exists,  and they found a rough draft for it and put it on DVD? Yeesh.

Typically the dialogue in one of these movies is not the highlight, sometimes it is even the worst part of these flicks. But this is…really stupid. It ain’t Daigoro vs. Goliath but it’s still horrible. Every damn word of this script is exposition. We don’t get to know any of these characters. The plot can be very well summed up as Tokyo vs. Varan. Usually we get the token human character who actually gets development, who actually means something, in these movies. Sometimes they’re even good. Here, you get virtually nothing. I don’t believe they added any real characters into the movie in the theatrical version either.

That said, this movie DOES have duration – even if it’s only 54 minutes. So you have to fill it with something – and that’s where I start to actually react positively. They fill it with a LOT of monster action. Is it the best? Hell freaking no. There’s way too many cuts, not enough buildings get destroyed, and I even spotted one of the reused shots from Godzilla. But it’s not horrible. It’s not awkward and flabby like in the 70’s Godzilla movies, Varan can hold his own. He’s doing a good job himself, it’s just the way it’s shot that can be a huge detriment. And the fact that you’re basically using an hour to see a monster destroy stuff is not bad in my opinion.

Of course you paid your time to see something else – the monster himself. Naturally this movie does the stupid thing of showing the monster INSTANTLY. But unlike a theatrical movie, you don’t really have the guarantee of the audience staying throughout the entire movie. You gotta pull ‘em in because they could just switch the channel. So that makes sense. Varan, on the other hand, does not. He’s a…a…a thing. Not in the cool way where I can make a long joke about him being from The Adams 4 vs. Mothra from John Carpenter’s World, I mean in the WTF way.

So let’s analyze this. He’s Gamera if you took away his shell, turned him into a raisin, gave him a bunch of super small Spacegodzilla spikes, and made him a flying squirrel. Listen Japan. I’ve seen a lot of your monster movies. I’ve seen enough of your cartoons. I’ve even seen enough of House. But it’s times like these where, despite the fact I know I should expect these things, despite the fact I do expect these kinds of things, I wonder what the Hell you guys are smoking. Ah well. He’s better than quite a number of monsters, but he’s at the bottom of the barrel. Far under standards.

Sometimes I wonder what I get myself into. This is not one of those times. I know exactly what I got myself into, and that’s why I’m asking “how did they make this so that I could get into it?” Or something like that, I’m making about as much sense as Tsuburya right now. I can’t name a bunch of monster movies worse than it. It’s very nice that the TV version is so short, so that it feels much less tedious than Godzilla vs. Megalon or Daigoro vs. Goliath. But, holy Hell guys. If we’re comparing this movie to Daigoro vs. Goliath, than there’s a problem. End of story, see it if you want a really short monster movie that won’t bore you. Otherwise, there’s nothing here. And besides, I think most people see the theatrical version, which I’m kind of scared of at this point.

The Rating? 2.9/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

The H-Man (1958)

I've seen this 2 1/2 times and I still don't fully understand it.

There is a group of people I would like to call The Avengers of Kaiju movies. This list includes Ishiro Honda, Akira Ifukube, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Shinichi Sekizawa, Eiji Tsuburya and Akihiko Hirata. Director, composer, producer, writer, SFX dude and actor. These guys knew how to do monster movies. With the entirety of the Showa Godzilla series under their belt collectively, and individually some covering the Hesei series, not to mention contributing to many spin-off monster projects and Samurai films...you can't discredit this team on their work. Yet it is possible to discredit them on what they didn't work so much on.

The H-Man, The Human Vapour and The Secret of the Telegian are the three movies of Toho's that are considered their "mutant" trilogy. I don't know if you'll get reviews of the last two, though I'd love to. The last two haven't seen home video releases in America, and The H-Man only got on DVD in 2009. This trilogy of flicks is largely unknown because they were made by a team of people who were unfamiliar with the genre. Familiarized with the methods and success of giant monster movies, they were pressured into sci-fi films with normal sized beings and more realistic sub-plots. Not to mention, half their team would be gone at a time. This created an unfamiliar and uncomfortable environment for these true artists.

Four out of the six of The Avengers are present in making this movie. We are missing Akira Ifukube and Shinichi Sekizawa. The legendary Akira Ifukube is replaced by the (clearly) jazz influenced Masaru Sato, who has done four movies you've never heard of....according to Wikipedia. According to IMDb, he's been involved Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Lupin the Third, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, The Lost World of Sinbad, Godzilla Raids Again, Half Human and approximately eleventy bajillion other movies. Wikipedia, clean up your game old boy.

Masaru Sato's soundtrack is okay to say the least, not generic (especially considering the year) but unmemorable and sometimes failing to capture the desired emotion of the writer and director. Speaking of the writer, who the Hell replaced Shinichi Sekizawa? A little guy named Takeshi Kimura, who has worked on PLENTY of monster movies in his own right. Rodan, The Mysterians, The Human Vapour, Gorath, Matango, Frankenstein vs. Baragon, King Kong Escapes, The War of the Gargantuas, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Gigan and Megalon. Now let me ask you something.In ay of the movies I just listed - aside from Rodan and MAYBE Matango - do you remember a single line of really good dialogue? I didn't think so. Do you remember any good characters with more than one dimension that we really got familiarized with? Didn't think so.

I would have liked to see this movie get some really cool character development. Let's see Misaki before he got turned into chunky JELL-O. Let's see him as a person, what his role was in dealing out drugs. That way we can understand him when that big tragedy happens to him. Let's get some focus on The H-Man himself before he becomes this giant blob mass. What, did they need to make sure there was time for the two seductive dances? The sign of a trash writer. This is a legitimately good concept though....having to feed on your own brethren that you love because those brethren you love kill you...how many emotional opportunities do you have there? This is the sign of a movie that needs to be remade.

But let's start getting positive about the movie. The acting is above average. The gangsters in this movie are evil enough to be a very stark contrast with the somewhat to super innocent protagonists. Akihiko Hirata is awesome as ever in this movie, even if his material is pretty crappy. Everybody else though is pretty bland, and DO NOT get me started on the Emii played by Ayumi Sonoda. She's not very important in the movie but she is both annoying and mostly BORING. She's an okay singer and her song is about nothing, it adds nothing to the story and she adds nothing to the story yet I swore it took up 20 minutes of air time. I have successfully laid out 40 minutes between the singing and the striping that you could have used to improve your characters. Bad sign.

Please, let me stay positive...the special effects in this movie are pretty cool. The H-Man, believe it or not, predates The Blob. By only a third of a year, but it does. Considering that, the sludge effects are extremely inventive. Not only are they on-par...they're better. There's not nearly as much super-imposing, the movement is smoother, and the details are more menacing and less corny. I guess The Blob is intentionally campy, but you gotta give this movie credit for having balls. Even if The Blob intentionally didn't. There's also a really cool effect where, when the humans are infected, they bubble up and deflate like balloons. It's easy to tell how they did it, but in 1958 something this realistic deserves props. Nobody died in realistic ways before then, other than falling. It's really fascinating seeing this movie...I mean...wow.

Overall, The H-Man is...weird. Not in the Nazis at the Center of the Earth way. Nor in the Yellow Submarine way. More in this way: this movie was made by an alien. This movie was made by an alien who was an avid collector of Earth movies and wanted to make his own to match the culture. It's script is crap but it's concept is good, it's special effects are great but the music is very forgettable and boring, its main protagonists and antagonists are well played but everybody else drags this movie down to the depths of the ocean. It's a perfect candidate for a remake. But for now, it gets 2.6/5

I, Da ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off.

Casino Royale (1954)

CLIMAX AT IT'S FULLEST LENGTH!

ENTER IAN FLEMING

Born on May 28th, 1908, Ian Fleming was an author, journalist and…naval officer. Huh. Awesome. He was raised in a very wealthy family in London, England; his father a member of parliament for Henley. His grandfather was a very successful financer in Scotland who was eventually bombed by Germans in World War I. Ian’s brother was named Peter who became a very successful travel writer and got married to actor Celia Johnson. Fleming’s half-sister Amaryllis was the daughter of artist Augustus John. Basically, THE DUDE WAS FRIGGIN’ RICH.

Despite this he had a lot of physical issues as a child, a poor diet and a lot of bullying. When he was a young adult he enrolled at Eton College…which apparently is for kids 13-18. Go figure. Oddly enough, he had awful grades but was a great athlete. He also happened to edit the school magazine named The Wyvern. E.V. Slater, Ian’s housemaster, didn’t like Ian’s rebellious attitude at the time – which was hair grease, owning a car and going out with women. Talk about your first world problems. Just for the Hell of it I’m gonna put on some ironic violin music to be even more anti-rich.

Ian was pulled from the school and sent to military school – again, many first world problems – but he stayed there only a year after contracting gonorrhea. Around this time his mother started to think about the possibility of him being enrolled in the Foreign Offices of the United Kingdom. So she kicked him out of the house and sent him to Austria. He learned the language and attended to major colleges in the country. When in Geneva, he began a relationship with Monique Panchaud de Bottomes (aka Hoggilty McBoggilty) and they were briefly engaged in 1931.

Mommy didn’t like it.

Ian would try to get into the Foreign Offices, but he would fail the test. His mom instead brought him into being a sub-editor of a magazine called Reuters. He spent a few years in Moscow reporting on British support of Stalinism. At the end of 1933, he would again bow to family pressures and become a banker. In 1935 he would move again, this time to Bishopsgate in London, to become a stockbroker. Fleming fucked up full force in both fields. He then fell in love Ann O’ Neil, who simultaneously had a dick in each hole.

But all these first world problems changed in 1939 when he was enrolled into the navy during World War II. He was thrown in as a lieutenant and quickly became a commander. Fleming’s biographer would note that “he had no obvious qualities for the role.” You get the feeling…ah, never mind, I won’t go there. But he proved to be invaluable with a cool head. John Godfrey had him be his personal advisor. John Godfrey was a hot-head, and whenever he would piss off somebody Ian Fleming would be like “let’s go settle this over some spilt milk, shalt we?”

Around September of that year Godfrey circulated a memo by Fleming that compared their current strategy to fly fishing. Basically, throw out some dead bodies with notes on them and hope the Germans fall for it. This lead to being able to invade Italy from North Africa. The memo was titled “A Suggestion (not a very nice one.)” British humor at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. He then came up with Operation Rutheless, also known as “this is what they did in Wizard of Oz and Star Wars except with planes.” The idea was to take a German Bomber, dress up in German army outfits, crash land in England, get rescue from other German soldiers, kill ‘em and get the plans.

It never happened.

But they did go to the USA in 1941 to party with Theodore D. Roosevelt and a bunch of other cool dudes, which eventually resulted in the creation of the CIA. That’s something to put on a resume ladies and gentlemen….no, seriously. Ian’s resume must be amazing. Banker, stockbroker, journalist, wrote the James Bond novels, created the CIA. He ain’t gonna have a hard time finding a job, if he was still alive that is. The last thing Fleming did in that unit was execute Operation Goldeneye, which would allow British superiors to continue to contact with allies in the event of German takeover.

In 1942 Ian Fleming started a group of Commandos known as No. 30AU. Their job was to join the frontlines in order to steal enemy documents while everybody else gets shot up. Plagiarizing German intelligence was “one of the most outstanding innovations in [English] intelligence.” Fleming, naturally, did not actually fight with the unit but picked targets and set them to do his dirty work. It started off as thirty people but Ian sucked enough dicks to get it to 150 strong. His control of the group suffered when Edmund Rushbroke took over Godfrey’s positions, but he still had enough influence to control the group. Even with disdain from the members. The group became super prosperous and did a lot of tours.

After this Ian Fleming would go onto to be part of T-Force. This group would go in, grab documents, get out. If you haven’t guessed by now, A LOT of his military experience was dealt in spying and stealing. James Bond 007, end of story. T-Force did some pretty good stuff, most notably discover Kiel. Ian Fleming would be congratulated for his work with a trip to Jamaica, where he decided to live forever. He planted a house and built a tree, and named the house Goldeneye. In May 1945, he moved in permanently.

In Jamaica Ian Fleming would find official employment up to 1961 with The Sunday Times. He was essentially the consultants to the consultants. He ended up having about a million affairs (Gee, I don’t think that went into any super successful series of novels) and had a bunch of kids in the middle of Bumfuck, Egypt. During this time where he was screwing more girls than Chuck Norris and an Indian (too soon?) he wrote a novel. In two months. It was called Casino Royale. The novel was shit and Fleming’s crew had a dreadful time trying to publish it. Nevertheless, it sold like hot cakes.

Writing the book Ian Fleming named his main character James Bond, after a birdwatcher he had known in the war. His goal was to make James Bond the dullest, most uninteresting character in the world (must hold back my anger) and he thought James Bond was a completely uninteresting name. He ended up putting his brothers, comrades, superiors and best friends into the character and he actually developed some sort of personality – on accident. When the story sold like hotcakes, CBS picked it up for a grand ($8,654 in modern money) and made it a TV special.

The fifty minute long TV special was done by Anthony Ellis and Charles Bennett. Charles Bennett worked with Alfred Hitchcock many times, on films like Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps and Sabotage. These two cut out a LOT of the book, and made James Bond a “combined intelligence officer” for both Britain and America. It went mostly unnoticed, but has garnered an audience in more recent decades. The actors have all gone on to be in big productions. There’s this big rumor that while they were staging the special in front of an audience, the dead villain got up off the floor and walked to his dressing room. That would be something to have seen.

REVIEW

You know I’m actually kind of happy I’d never seen a James Bond movie until today.* Because now I can look at this obscure piece of film with more of an objective eye. This comes in extreme handy when we’re dealing with an American version of James Bond. Played by Barry Nelson, who would go on to play a part in Battlestar Galactica and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. He’s a very good actor who gets absorbed in his role, pretty much being the character.** Unfortunately he kind of chose the wrong role to do this in. The type of character that the director (William Brown) is having him play is a carbon copy of the majority of personalities that young men played during the 30’s-50’s. Suave, cool and smart but slow, clumsy and awkward. You can see why this is hard to relate to in the modern era.

*I can just see myself showing up to school and somebody asking me about Skyfall and I’m like “I’ve only seen one James Bond movie” and they’re like “which one?” and I’m like “Casino Royale” and they’re like “that one was okay” and I’m like “the 1954 version” and their eyes go all googely and this is by far my biggest annotation of this website yet.

**There’s a word for that, I’m sure.

Peter Lorre (M, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Raven and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) plays the main villain in this movie. Like most other Bond villains, he plays the current political fears at the time. As a Hungarian, he’s essentially trying his best to be a Eurasian who has multiple spies posing as allies. If that doesn’t sound like how America viewed Communism then I guess Hitler isn’t how Americans view Germany. Anyways, that communism game is only half his energy. The other half his energy is spent as being…Peter Lorre. Yeah, ladies and gentlemen if you’re unaware this is not one of his finest moments.

Going off the people for a bit, let’s talk about the dialogue/scene-by-scene writing. There are some really good lines of dialogue, but they tend to be dated. Like when, at the end of Act I, when the extra stipulation is added, that phone call was some awesome writing – or, at least, for the standards of an adventure serial. The actual game of Banco (or however you spell it.) That’s also a really exciting scene. Though, you really gotta expect most of the best stuff was taken from the novel. Moments like when James Bond and Valerie are alone in a hotel room are kind of forced, boring and predictable…probably re-edited to synch with American television. These are less common but not by a huge margin. Like a 60/40 split. They bring the movie’s pace down considerably. Overall, if you’ve seen a mediocre episode of The Twilight Zone, you know the dialogue from this.

Speaking of Valerie, how is she doing her job? She’s played by Linda Christian, who appeared in absolutely nothing but is notable for being one of the first very successful Mexican actors in the American market. Sort of. Her performance here is….kinda crappy. She’s super generic and forcing her lines, not really interested or putting any emotion towards the role. I can understand though, it’s not like this production really matters in the long run. Still, when everybody else is putting in some omnivore* of effort into their work, you ought to be able to do something.

*I could not spell monicore.

Well, and…that’s it. Sudden endings to reviews for the win. But then again, this movie kind of ends awkwardly. This is an example of a movie that is extremely lucky. Without Ian Fleming’s novel as source material or the great cast that it boasts, this creative team would have probably made a spy venture so bad it would have never been seen again. But thankfully they had a lot of backings and they have made a very enjoyable 50’s television special. I would say if you’re a hardcore Bond fan or into 50’s adventure stories then you should definitely check it out. 3.65/5

I, Da  ₡₳$h₥₳₦, singing off. Next time: Medicine 007.