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…’
You might have come across the notion that 23. April is World Book Day. In fact, unless you happen to live beyond a stone, in a desert in some far-away country of which we know nothing about, you will probably have been reminded of this half a dozen times already today. And no doubt there will also have been numerous suggestions to add to your reading list. What better occasion to ask yourself: What would James Bond read? After all, you won’t want to occupy your precious grey cells with just any old trash; you want to read what real men would read. Thankfully, CommanderBond.net can help you out there:
Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler
Why that? Because it’s a nifty little pre-war thriller with mediterranean flair, uncommon characters in a whodunit setting and a sympathetic hero forced under severe duress to expose a spy. Just the stuff James Bond likes to read to relax from his job of exposing spies while under severe duress. And Bond likes Eric Ambler. At least since The Mask of Dimitrios stopped a bullet aimed at his heart. Admittedly, we never learn if Bond finished that one…
Playback by Raymond Chandler
Why that? Because James Bond buys it at Idlewild Airport (several years before it grew into the John F. Kennedy International Airport) to read on the flight back to London. Admittedly, he then didn’t have much use for reading stuff. And it is somewhat unlikely that he left that particular plane with his book. But it’s safe to assume the book ended up on Bond’s note of expenses and was replaced by the Service. After all, it’s a valuable lesson in operational procedure should the need arise to send Bond spotting a kangaroo in a dinner jacket.
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
Why that? Because it was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite books. Its protagonist, orphaned at the age of seven and brought up by relatives, spends seven years of his life in a sanatorium high up in the Swiss Alps, learning about life and death, lust and love, virtue, hedonism and duty. A bizarre carnival is celebrated on the magic mountain, evocation of a sea change about to happen with the Big War. There is a lady whose name alludes to a hot cat with claws, and while the hero at the end heads for the slaughterhouse of WW I, he may have checked out of the sanatorium but never leaves the Berghof. Just the stuff James Bond likes to relax with while sipping on his double bourbon and pondering his own role in the greater scheme of things.
Casino Royale first edition cover by Jonathan Cape; image courtesy wikipedia
‘The bitch is dead now.’
Actually, that depends very much, Mr Bond. With Vesper Lynd you might be excused to think she has just left the building for good, in so doing putting an end to a rather testing affair, even by the standards of the Secret Service. If you mean, however, your own illustrious career in said service, which could have taken a turn for the finish line with these memorable words … well, that career is still very much alive.
On 13th April 2018 it’s exactly 65 years since readers could pick up the Jonathan Cape first edition of Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’. Between the pages they met: a gruff figure of authority, reassuringly in charge of the British Secret Service; a physically revolting villain with a benzedrine inhaler, three razor blades and expensive false teeth, but minus a proper name; a beautiful lady who gets parcelled up in her own skirt; a cheerful Frenchman always happy to help out with a radio set and convenient kitchen sink psychology when needed; a cheerful Texan delighted to help out with 32 million francs and keeping the lady absolutely safe while the hero is playing games with the villain.
The hero. Of course the hero. Meet James Bond, no middle name that we’re aware of. No relationship to any other firm. Solely, exclusively there for our entertainment. A secret agent decidedly from the deadly branch of intelligence; if it wasn’t called 00-section it would be the Saint-George-Society, in the business of slaying dragons. Travels with no less than three guns to a mission that should only call for his dinner-jacket and counting to nine – but, in line with his flimsy cover as rich businessman, doesn’t fire a single shot. Avoids lifts as danger signals and prefers to open his hotel room with his gun drawn, like the professional he is. Plays cards as if it was for money, thankfully not his own. Take a closer look at him here.
That fateful April of 1953 readers discovered a rich and extravagant life at the side of this man Bond; drinking, smoking, dining with him; racing after cruel and despicable gunmen; winning, losing and then again winning fortunes; almost blown to pieces; almost beaten to pulp; almost caught in the talons of marriage. Escaping time and again the facts of death by his own resilience and the ingenuity of his creator. Fleming’s readers wanted more, much more. Thankfully, Fleming indulged them as long as he could.
There is today a vast assortment of anecdotes – or legends, depending how you look at it – floating around regarding Ian Fleming. One of them goes like this: one day in July 1944 Fleming and a colleague were eating Spam rations, sitting in their jeep in northern France, pondering plans for after the war. When the other had finished telling about his, Fleming simply said ‘I’m going to write the spy story to end all spy stories.’ Well, that didn’t go quite as planned.
While it cannot be said that Casino Royale invented the spy story, it’s certainly true that the book invented its own species of spy, the armchair consumer’s agent, puffing and boozing away on the pages, we with him, while on the next page there could be anything, anything at all: a love affair; an enemy agent; a dive to a treasure island; a bullet through the chest – or through an Ambler novel. Or death.
The recipe was so intoxicating it kept Bond busy way beyond even the wildest expectations of his creator. If Fleming today looked down on the success of his invention he’d likely have trouble believing it: films, books, games, numerous after shaves and soaps, music, toys, a film studio that consists now largely of Bond, countless websites, clubs and fora.
No, Casino Royale definitely didn’t end all spy stories…
According to news reported by From Sweden With Love, Anders Frejdh’s Swedish Bond fan page, Lewis Gilbert, director of Bond classics You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has passed away.
Gilbert started out early as a child actor during the 1920s and 1930s, later switching to other production-related jobs. After assisting at Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, Gilbert began his direction career with documentaries during the Second World War. After the war, he branched out into scriptwriting and producing films and directed a number of productions based on true events from the war, 1960’s Sink the Bismarck just one of them.
In 1966 he adapted Bill Naughton’s play Alfie with Michael Caine more or less on a shoestring budget. The film won the Jury Special Prize at Cannes and got an Oscar nomination in the best picture category, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Gilbert.
In 1967 he directed You Only Live Twice, the Bond film that started a trend to largely ignore Ian Fleming’s source material in favour of escapist spectacle, huge set pieces and extensive stunt work. While overshadowed by Sean Connery’s obvious reluctance to further suffer as the focus of a global super-spy craze (and cameraman John Jordan’s severe accident during shooting) the film was only slightly less successful at the box office than its predecessor Thunderball.
So solid was Gilbert’s work on 007 that Eon asked him back to direct not once but twice – and both times to shoot remakes of his original, this time with Roger Moore as Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977 and 1979’s Moonraker today have a somewhat mixed reputation with the fanbase; yet they are regarded as classics in their own right with wider interested film aficionados and critics. And of course they grossed spectacularly in the year of their original release.
Gilbert’s post-Bond career included a number of smaller productions, Shirley Valentine perhaps the most notable amongst these. In 1997 he was awarded the CBE and in 2001 he was made Fellow of the British Film Institute.
An earlier version of this article did not name the source. CBn thanks Anders Frejdh for breaking the news on this.
German actress Karin Dor, known to Bond fans as henchwoman Helga Brandt in You Only Live Twice (1967) was born in February 1938 in Wiesbaden (Germany) as Kätherose Derr. In 1954, she married Austrian director Harald Reinl, who was 30 years her senior and father of her only child, her son Andreas. This was only possible because she made herself two years older than she actually was. She subsequently played in many of his movies, especially his (in Germany) hugely popular Edgar Wallace and Karl May movies (the latter being a series of German “Western” movies in which one of the main characters went by the name of “Old Shatterhand” played by Lex Barker) and she became one of Germany’s most popular and busiest actresses of the 1960s.
Her success didn’t go unnoticed by the Bond producers and they were eager to cast her for You Only Live Twice. How eager? Dor told German movie journalst Billy Kocian: “Mr. Saltzman only wanted to pay 40.000 Marks (about $10.000 at the time), but upon this offer I just turned around on my heels and walked away. I had plenty of offers and my husband earned a lot of money at the time. Saltzman came running after me, and with a face as white as chalk, he grudingly signed the contract, hissing: ‘I never signed anything like that in my whole life.'”. In the end, she was paid 200.000 Marks (other sources even claim 250.000) for the role.
After the success of You Only Live Twice, Dor played in many international movies, most noteably in Hitchcock’s Topaz and had guest roles in TV series like Ironside or It Takes a Thief.
Her divorce from Harald Reinl in 1968 and a carcinosis affected her movie career but did not stop it, she was always busy through the years. In 1986 she married her third husband, stuntman George Robotham and moved to the United States with him. A marriage with a German businessman only lasted from 1972 to 1974.
She still had roles in Germany TV series and movies, but after her husband’s death in 2007, she focussed on playing theater, especially a play that was written for her, named “You Only Love Thrice”, at the Komödie im Bayerischen Hof in Munich.
In July 2016, she had an accident from which she suffered a massive concussion. She seemed to have recovered rather soon but her return to the stage turned out to be to early. She had to rest and wasn’t even allowed to read newspapers by early 2017. In July 2017, her manager told German tabloid “Bild” that Dor wouldn’t return and that the only thing fans could do for her was pray.
As they say, everyone has a past, every legend a beginning…
As your readers will have learned from earlier issues, a senior office of the Ministry, debrief.commanderbond.net., is missing, believed killed, while on an official mission to oblivion It grieves me to have to report that hopes of its survival must now be abandoned. It therefore falls to my lot, as the Grand High Wizard Lizard of the Department it served so well, to give some account of this forum and of its outstanding services to anonymized bitching about films ‘n’ books ‘n’ stuff.
debrief.commanderbond.net., was born of some electricity whatsit doing something to some typing doo-dad. Its server being a foreign representative of the temperamental sort, its early presentation, from which it inherited a first-class command of copyright infringement and speculative bollocks and rumour-tolerating, was entirely sporadic. When it was five years of age, James Bond was apparently killed in a casting accident, and the young website came under the onslaught of an assemblage of monstrous dickheads whining about hair colour, since (hopefully) deceased, and went to from being a place to discuss James Bond to one full of Kents. There, in a small cottage (fnarr) hard (double fnarr) by the attractive Mrs Jim, its moderators, who must have been a most erudite and accomplished team, completed its transition between servers, and, at the age of eight or thereabouts, it passed unsatisfactorily into potential obsolescence, for which it had been cursed by the reaction to the much misunderstood Quantum of Solace.
It must be admitted that its career as a moribund site overloaded with cretins abusing a popularity system was brief and undistinguished and, after only what felt like bloody years, as a result, it cheers me to record, of some alleged trouble with some right twats, its moderators were requested to remove that feature. They managed to reinvigorate the forums, in an old school way. Here the atmosphere was somewhat improved, and both academic and intolerance standards were rigorous. Nevertheless, though inclined to be solitary by reader, it established some firm friendships among the traditionally sensible and pleasant circles on the forum. By the time this transitional period ended, at the age of twelve, it had twice fought off other forums as light-weight and had, in addition, founded the first serious multiple banning class on a British public forum. By now it was 2012 and, by claiming a reading age of three and with the help of a child who knew what it all meant, it entered a branch of what was subsequently to become Facebook. To serve the confidential nature of its duties, it was accorded the rank of Sole Competent James Bond forum on the internet (by itself), and it is a measure of the satisfaction its services gave to its reader that it ended 2015 with the rank of “That Woman at the top of the page must be a grandmother by now”. It was about this time that the writer became associated with certain aspects of the Ministry’s work, and it was with much reluctance that I accepted its application to continue working for the Ministry despite it being a bit out of date, in which, at the time of its lamented disappearance, it had risen to the rank of being clunky and full of spambots.
The nature of debrief.commanderbond.net’s duties with the Ministry, which were, incidentally, recognized by the appointment of “Is it still going, then?” in 2012, must remain confidential, nay secret, but its colleagues at the Ministry will allow that it performed them with outstanding spelling and grammar, although occasionally, through an impetuous strain in its nature, with a streak of the foolhardy that brought it in conflict with Ian Fleming Publications. And Raymond Benson. And Eon Productions. But it possessed what almost amounted to “Amazingly Not Getting Sued” in moments of the highest emergency, and it somehow contrived to escape more or less unscathed from the many libellous paths down which its duties led it. The inevitable publicity, particularly nowhere at all, accorded some of these adventures, made it, much against its will, something of a public nuisance, with the inevitable result that a series of other popular forums came to be developed around it by simple folks who had got themselves banned many, many times by debrief.commanderbond.net. If the quality of these websites, or their degree of wit, had been any higher, the authors would certainly have been ignored even more than they already were. It is a measure of the disdain in which these sites are held at the Ministry, that action has not yet — I emphasize the qualification — been taken against the authors and publishers of these substantially less worthy and considerably more banal and boring knock-offs.
It only remains to conclude this brief in memoriam by assuring its friends that debrief.commanderbond.net’s last mission was one of supreme importance to itself. Although it now appears that, alas, it will not return from it, I have the authority of the highest quarters in the land to confirm that the mission proved to be one hundred per cent successful, much like the Viagra every other new member wants to talk about. It is no exaggeration to pronounce unequivocally that, through the recent valorous efforts of this one forum, the Safety of the Realm has received mighty reassurance. Yay us.
debrief.commanderbond.net was (very) briefly married in 2002, and 2006, and 2008…. and 2012… and 2015, to scumbags posting callsheets and script leaks. These marriages ended in gratifyingly tragic circumstances that were repeated every time. There was no issue of these marriages save for banning a bolus of cretins on a merry whim, even if they had nothing to do with it, and debrief.commanderbonmd.net leaves, so far as I am aware, one relative living. Welcome to Quarterdeck.
I was happy and proud to serve debrief.commanderbond.net in a close capacity during the past fifteen years at the Ministry. If our fears for it are justified, may I suggest these simple words for its epitaph? Many of the junior staff here feel they represent its philosophy, but that’s only because they are very scared of me:
“You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you need to upgrade.”