Defence of an oftentimes abused film by CBn’s Tim Williams
Forty years ago, Moonraker was released to the world.
As we all know, Moonraker is a silly, over the top parody and a complete embarrassment to James Bond. That’s the kind of statement you’re used to hearing about the 11th outing in longest running film franchise, all too often labelled as an embarrassing low point.
I’m here to tell you those statements are wrong. Moonraker represents one last hurrah for the 1960s dream team who set the gold standard for cinematic spy entertainment a decade prior.
Shirley Bassey is back, this time singing a hauntingly beautiful title song, and an upbeat disco rendition which plays over the end credits. Ken Adam returns to oversee production design with his usual futuristic flair, and John Barry composes an ethereal work of art – with the last usage of the 007 Theme that first appeared in 1963’s From Russia With Love.
Moonraker also represents the last time the original MI6 team are together following Bernard Lee’s passing in 1981. The creative talent couldn’t be any more impressive and they all unite for this film.
The Bond of Moonraker is extremely appealing. He’s a smartly dressed daredevil who thinks nothing of freefalling without a parachute, rappelling down cable car wires and hang-gliding off waterfalls – while previously driving a gadget laden speedboat. He’s also an investigator – breaking into a safe, donning black attire to sneak into a secret laboratory, looking through a Rio warehouse and observing plane movements.
It is my belief Roger Moore looks his best in this film. Being his fourth film out of a total of seven, Moonraker is smack bang in the middle of his tenure. After the triumph of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, the Moore template was firmly established, and Moonraker wisely built upon it.
That was the year a woman resided at No 10, thinking it would go on forever. But it didn’t…
That year, Vladimir Putin allegedly used to have a merry good time at one of Moscow Centre’s prestigious fleshpot postings – second-in-command of a department of KGB’s Dresden residency. Aspiring to replace his boss in five or six years. Or maybe not…
That year, some spoilt brat named Boris (‘Boris Becker’ they used to wind him up, cruelly) sat behind a desk in Bruxelles, on the seat of his pants still the footprint from being kicked out of his last job. His little mind darkly devoted to making an even deeper impression with his next…
It is fair to say only Putin’s perspective has changed a lot over 30 years.
Oh yes – and 1989 was also the year Timothy Dalton was Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Licence to Kill.
You wouldn’t have guessed it at the time, but in retrospect Dalton seems to turn out as divisive a figure – with some fans at least – as the other three mentioned above. Opinion about him ranges from ‘the best Bond Eon ever dared showing, the closest to Fleming’ to ‘the worst thing that ever happened to the series’, with fans often defending their perception as ultimate truth, reaching for rigorous blanket statements whenever nothing less would do their rightful indignation justice, for or against Dalton.
Amusingly, both sides often name Licence To Kill – the 16th Bond film and Dalton’s second and last – the crown witness to support their verdict.
Now Licence To Kill celebrates its 30th anniversary on 13. June. A film that marked a definite watershed moment in the history of the franchise since it would result in the longest break between productions*. A film that tried to outdo its predecessor with significantly less budget (20 per cent); actually with a budget on par with that of 1979’s Moonraker. A film that set out to give a perfectly fine definition of the phrase ‘punching above its weight’ when it competed that summer, without much promotional help but with predictable results, against Batman and Indiana Jones. At least nobody could accuse Licence To Kill to lack aspiration or optimism.
Live from Jamaica producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson finally announced principal photography for the 25th Bond film which at this point still has no official title. Director Cary Joji Fukanaga presented Daniel Craig, Leá Sedoux (returning as Dr. Madeleine Swann), Naomie Harris and new cast members Ana de Armas (“Blade Runner 2049”, “Knives Out”) and Lashana Lynch (“Captain Marvel”). In addition to the returning Ralph Fiennes as “M”, Ben Whishaw as “Q” and Rory Kinnear as “Tanner” the new film will also bring back Jeffrey Wright as “Felix Leiter”. Furthermore BOND 25 will feature Billy Magnussen (“Game Night”), David Dencik (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and Dali Benssalah (“A Faithful Man”). And, as rumoured extensively before, Oscar winner Rami Malek will play the main villain, promising via satellite: “I will be making sure Mr. Bond does not have an easy ride of it in this”.
BOND 25 will be shot at Pinewood Studios and on location in Jamaica, London and Italy. Shooting in Norway, due to weather conditions, has already been completed in the previous weeks. Filming will continue in Jamaica on Sunday, April 24th.
According to a short synopsis the story will pick up Bond after having left active service and enjoying life in Jamaica. Old friend Felix Leiter then asks for help in rescuing a kidnapped scientist, a task which will lead Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
Bond 25, from longstanding 007 gatekeeper and producer Eon, is being released in the U.S. on April 8, 2020 by Metro Goldwyn Mayer through its United Artists Releasing joint venture with Annapurna, and through Universal and MGM in the U.K. and internationally from April 3, 2020.
Regular Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade will be credited for scripting duties together with Scott Z. Burns, Cary Joji Fukunaga himself and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
In part One and Two of this interview, former racing and stunt driver Erich Glavitza from Austria told us how he got the job as a stunt driver for the 6thJames Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. We also heard about his preparations, how he managed to get enough cars, the necessary equipment and find the drivers. After that, he told us about the rehearsals, working with the movie crew and how he taught Dianna Rigg how to drive on ice. It is widely known that back then, leading actor George Lazenby wasn’t the easiest guy to work with, and Glavitza told us about this special experience, too.
In this third and final part, we’re going to hear about the shooting of the car stunts. Also, Glavitza reveals the hitherto virtually unknown names of the other drivers – as far as he remembers them 50 years later – and talks about his life after Bond.
Erich, after we heard about all these preparations, please tell us about the actual shooting…
About time, eh? (laughs) We started with the scene at the telephone booth in Lauterbrunnen with the Cougar driving off with screeching tyres. I had some concerns, and said “Screeching tyres on an icy road? Not even a hamster would buy that.” But Peter Hunt just shrugged it off and said “No one will notice that, anyway.” And he was right – nobody did. Then came the pursuit before the race, which was shot on the road coming from Grindelwald. When that was done, we did the opening scene of the race with me crashing through the gate.
In the first part of this interview, former racing and stunt driver Erich Glavitza from Austria gave a detailed account about how he got “a call from James Bond” which resulted in him getting hired for the 6th James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. In this second part, you’ll read about the rehearsals with the film crew and the drivers, teaching Diana Rigg how to drive on ice and the experience of working with her and George Lazenby.
Erich, in the first part, we heard about how you got the job and how you got the cars and the necessary equipment. But the racing scenes wasn’t everything they wanted you to do…
There also was the car chase before the race. I was to be the stunt driver for Tracy’s dark red Ford Mercury Cougar XR-7. It was a real beast of a car, with a 7-litre V8 engine and around 400 horsepower. It definitely needed more and better spikes than the other cars. Also, our chief mechanic Willy Neuner had to modify the suspension and the shock absorbers to improve the handling. The power steering wasn’t optimal, and the brakes… oh well, we didn’t need to brake that much, anyway. The car was great fun, so I didn’t care that much. Of course, all the action had to be well-planned. There were lots of meetings and discussions on how to mount the cameras on and inside the cars, how to shoot the street chase and all those things.
A few years ago, Bond expert Charles Helfenstein asked me to be his translator on a trip to Switzerland where he wanted to research for his forthcoming book “The Making of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’”. One day we were standing on a meadow outside Lauterbrunnen, trying to find the exact location where the ice racing scenes were shot. He told me that he had interviewed so many people who had worked on the film, but that he was unable to find any of the drivers who were involved in the shooting of that ice race. And it still was that way when the book was finally published (and much lauded) in 2009.
Fast forward to 2019. The German fan club James Bond Club Deutschland (of which I’m a board member) has a special guest on it’s annual meeting. One Dr Erich Glavitza, author of a recently published book “Vollgas oder Nix! – Meine wilden 60er mit Rindt, James Bond und McQueen” (Full Speed or Nothing! – My Wild Sixties with [German-Austrian F1 driver Jochen] Rindt, James Bond and McQueen). Back in 1969, he was the head of a group of young Austrian racing drivers who drove in those ice racing scenes. He told many stories from the shooting of OHMSS, answered questions and signed books and autographs. He later joined us for dinner were I was lucky to be seated close to him. He recounted many more anecdotes, not only from OHMSS but also Steve McQueen’s “Le Mans” movie for which he was a stunt driver and even played a small role. As he’d been well connected in the international racing scene since the early sixties, there were a lot of Formula One stories, too. His book is (currently) only available in German, so I asked him for an interview for an English Bond fan site (this one) to make his account accessible for the international Bond fan community. He agreed, also to my idea that in order to save time and effort I’d make rough (and abridged) translations of his book and the stories he told on that day to create sort of an interview. Of course I also asked some additional question which he was happy to answer. This one’s for you, Charles.
A hundred years after United Artists was formed as a film studio, the release venture run jointly by MGM-Annapurna announced that their operation shall henceforth adopt the monicker United Artists Releasing.
United Artists was the studio that originally trusted producers Broccoli and Saltzman to start their James Bond film series. In over 60 years of operating independently the studio produced, co-produced and distributed countless diverse classics of cinema history like Chaplin’s Modern Times and The Great Dictator, Hitchcock’s Rebecca, the James Bond and Pink Panther films, Midnight Cowboy, the Rocky films, Raging Bull and Apocalypse Now.
The box office failure and negative publicity of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate led to the end of United Artists’ film production and its merger with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer to MGM/UA. Subsequently, United Artists existed as a monicker attached to various MGM productions.
BOND 25 is going to be a major tentpole production for the United Artists Releasing operation, which will distribute the film on the US market.
I was going for a lazy stroll in the snowy Alps, as you do, and I was just passing this cave near St. Moritz, when a deep bearish voice called out:
‘Hey you – aren’t you one of the guys from CommanderBond.net? Gimme the low down, what’s the news about BOND 25, any juicy details from shooting yet?’
By the entrance to the cave a tall bear was putting on a battered black and white dog tooth suit over a dark blue shirt and a black knitted silk tie, apparently the morning toilet after a long winter hibernation. When I saw him putting black John Lobb shoes on his huge paws I knew I was talking to a hardcore Bond fan. They are everywhere. And they tend to be fussy about their appearance.
‘Sir, indeed I happen to be working for CBn. You, Sir, on the other hand are a bear. And judging from appearances I should have thought you have more pressing matters to attend to than a Bond film,’ I said.
‘What do you think I’m leaving my cave for this early, Mission Impossible?’ my new acquaintance said while he fiddled with a metal expanding bracelet to fit an expensive looking watch around his left forepaw. The hairs of his pelt stuck through the links of the bracelet, but otherwise he was looking every inch the worldly bear.
That’s what makes all the difference, Bond fans can climb right out of a cave and blend in nearly everywhere without effort.
‘Well then, what’s the last thing you remember? Before taking your nap in there?’ I asked him.
The bear’s face turned thoughtful. ’Lemme see…last thing I heard was BOND 25 would be in theatres November 2019. And that Craig will return!’ So this furry Bond fan was still thinking BOND 25 would be right in the middle of shooting now…
‘That was in summer of 2017 – you’ve missed lots of stuff!’
‘Did I? What in particular?’
‘You asked for it…
‘At first, there wasn’t any news about BOND 25 beyond Craig returning. And that Purvis & Wade would do the script, but that hardly counts as news. What there was was a distinct absence of information: no distributor, no director. Plenty of speculation, largely the typical nonsense stuff the media rehashes when they need a spin on a story, who’s doing the title song, who’s returning – or not – and so on. A lot of it focussed on who was possibly directing, so the media speculation mirrored that of the fans, Mendes returning…’
‘Ugh, no!’ my new friend the bear muttered.
‘…then not returning, Villeneuve maybe doing it…’
‘Denis Villeneuve, wow!’
‘…Nolan maybe doing it…’
‘…and finally all hell broke loose when it was announced that Danny Boyle had made a pitch for BOND 25.’
‘Danny Boyle, that’s awesome! Can’t wait to see it!’
‘You won’t have to.’
‘Didn’t they like his pitch?’
‘To the contrary, they were so taken by it that from March to August 2018 Boyle was officially directing BOND 25, shooting a script he developed on the go with John Hodge – while the Purvis and Wade effort supposedly was scrapped. The production, according to people in the know, was going full speed ahead when they suddenly hit “creative differences” and everything came to a standstill.’
‘Oh my,’ the bear was making a sad bear-face. ‘A Danny Boyle Bond film would have been so awesome…’ He was sniffling a little. It’s a disturbing sight, a huge bear sniffling.
‘Some people thought so, yes. But then, whenever a door closes, it does so for a reason – or however that Zen quote about doors goes…’
‘What did they mean with “creative differences” – ain’t that p.r. talk for excrement hitting the airscrew?’ the bear asked.
‘Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest. Talk in the media suggests it was something to do with rewriting the script, a task Purvis and Wade were possibly hired for again. Tabloids speculated wildly about who was to blame for what kind of blasphemy that finally broke the camel’s back. Bond actually dying was mentioned, but how much of that is true – if anything at all – nobody can say for sure.’
My friend the bear looked paler by the minute. It seemed catching up with his favourite franchise didn’t exactly agree with his digestion. While filling him in on events I spared him not a lot, not Gary Barber’s catapult exit from MGM, not Annapurna’s financial woes, which was supposed to team up with MGM for distribution.
‘God, that’s awful…does it get any worse?’
He didn’t yet know about BOND 25’s delay. He’s a bear after all, you never know with bears. Better slip him that detail together with something more uplifting.
‘Depends how you look at it. Distribution of BOND 25, as of yet, will be split between MGM-Annapurna for the US and Universal for the rest of the world. Might be that hints to MGM’s future – or not, take your pick. And Barber hasn’t been replaced as of yet, nor is MGM’s fate decided ’
Now he looked close to tears. ‘What a mess! Will there even be something to distribute when they lost their director and their script too?’
‘Well, it’s not clear how much of a loss that script was. Some claim Hodge may have worked from Purvis and Wade’s first effort all along; nobody outside can say for sure. Whatever Hodge cooked up also could still feature in BOND 25, depending on how a new director and Eon tackle it. And here comes the good news: after weeks of searching they found their replacement for Boyle – Cary J. Fukunaga. And it’s said he will also touch up the script.’
His face lit up. ’The one who directed True Detective? Hey, that’s pretty cool!’
‘Of course, all that kerfuffle comes at a price. You will not like hearing BOND 25 got pushed back a bit, from November 2019 to February 2020 – Valentine’s Day.’
‘That’s still over a year!’ He looked seriously miffed now.
‘Yes, but you picked just the right time to wake up: shooting is set to begin in March, with location work in Italy set for April.’
‘Italy again, I like that! It’s warm in Italy!’
‘Further locations may include Norway and possibly Canada too…’
‘I like Norway and Canada. Plenty bears there!’
The bear was fiddling now for some time with a smart phone; difficult to handle with his paws.
‘And why is none of this stuff up on CommanderBond.net? Damn, fans like me depend on you guys. Do your bloody duty!’ he growled at me.
‘In truth, I was just going to write it when you called me over…’