Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Moonraker’

I started writing a review of The Living Daylights (1987) for my Groovers Video Vault, it quickly became clear that I was not writing about the movie but about its star, Timothy Dalton. He probably isn’t the best James Bond, but he is certainly the most underrated, probably the closest to the character Ian Fleming wrote, and possibly the most influential since Sean Connery. The review of The Living Daylights will have to wait for another day.

In 1985 a 58 year old actor played James Bond, the actor Roger Moore was playing the part for the seventh and final time in his twelve year tenure. An older Bond could have made an interesting character as it did when (the younger) Sean Connery reprised the role for the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983), but thanks to lazy writing, Moore still playing the part as if he were a much younger man. This was exacerbated by the over reliance of silly gadgets and comedy one liners. In essence the small elements that made Bond, Bond had taken over. It was a bit like watching an aging rock star putting all their effort into an extravagant stage show but forgetting to sing the songs. The final nail in the creative coffin was that they had run out of Ian Fleming novels and were writing new stories, bad stories. Bond had become a parody, the result A View to a Kill was a terrible film, the franchise was an unsustainable mess, something had to be done. There was little of merit in the Roger Moore movies after his third outing, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the series really needed new direction back then. I suspect that remembering the failure of George Lazenby as Sean Connery’s replacement, the producers were scared of upsetting the status quo and kept Moore in the role for an extra decade. As bad as the films got (Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985) being the low points) they still made money.

Producers, particularly Cubby Broccoli courted a young little known Irishman Pierce Brosnan who was staring in the TV show Remington Steele. Contractual obligations prevented Brosnan from taking the part so attention turned to Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton had been approached to replace Connery in the late 60’s but felt he was too young, and then again in the early 80’s when Moore’s contract was in dispute. Comments in various interviews have suggested Dalton was not happy with the direction the franchise was going, he also suspected that he and other actors were used force Moore’s hand. When he eventually took the part he did it on his own terms. A fan of Flemings source novels, Dalton insisted on scaling back the sci-fi/fantasy elements of the plot in favour of a grittier more plot driven story. He played Bond as a reluctant hero who like his literary counterpart drank and smoked too much. He was a man clinging to small pleasures while he tried to take away the taste and guilt of the repugnant side of the job. This can be seen early in his first movie, The Living Daylights (1987). It took its name from an Ian Fleming short story that was originally published along with Octopussy.

The story saw a jaded Bond on sniper duty, his mission to take out a KGB sniper and aid an agents escape from East Berlin. On realising the KGB sniper is a beautiful, blonde cellist he had seen on her way to and from practice earlier, he decides to shoot her weapon from her hands rather than killing her. Captain Sender his local contact, explains to Bond that he had to mention Bonds actions in his report stating “You should have killed that sniper whoever it was” Bonds response:

James Bond Said wearily “Okay with any luck it’ll cost me my Double-0 number. But tell Head of Station not to worry. That girl won’t do any more sniping. Probably lost her left hand. Certainly broke her nerve for that kind of work. Scared the living daylights out of her. In my book, that was enough. Let’s go.”

It is with this defiance that Timothy Dalton played the part. Most of the short story makes it to the screen reworked into the plot of the movie. Bond’s words became “STUFF my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of her rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Bonds relationship with Saunders (based on Captain Sender from the short story) is unusual within a Bond film, in that it brings out many emotions in him. Initially the two don’t get on, but they grow to respect each other. When Saunders is killed Bond loses heart in his cover and becomes agitated and on edge. There is nuance in this performance you don’t expect from Bond. This isn’t a new Bond this is a return to the real Bond, the Fleming Bond. We can see this in his interactions with General Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. This the Bond we have seen on screen and read about on the page who has always been more interested in following his instincts than his orders. Dalton’s second and final Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) takes Bond a stage further refusing M’s orders and resigning in order to seek personal revenge. The film was both praised and criticised for darker and more violent tone of the movie taking it away from the family audience and more towards contemporary Hollywood thrillers. Interestingly it wasn’t that well received by American audiences. Receiving a 15 certificate in the UK and Rated PG-13 in America probably didn’t help.

In 1990, MGM/UA was sold, this led to various legal disputes that are too complicated to go into. The legal disputes caused delays and the next film due to go into production in the early 90’s was delayed until early 1994, this again was delayed and Dalton resigned from the role despite originally signing a three picture deal.

The interesting thing about Daltos time as Bond is what happened when he quit, Cubby Broccoli got his man, the actor he always wanted to play Bond, Pierce Brosnan. After a promising start GoldenEye (1995) the series descended into something very similar to the latter Roger Moore films, farces filled with silly gadgets and product placements. Bond as a character was conceived during World War II and was a cold war character, for that reason he lost a little of his relevance after The Living Daylights. While he was away fighting drug dealers and on a brief hiatus, the world was changing, Russia was changing. To their credit this became an underlying plot point in Brosnan’s début film but it was never expanded on or played with in future films. Then in 2006 in the wake of the Jason Bourne movies for the first time ever, Bond wasn’t recast, it was rebooted with Daniel Craig getting the part to the surprise of almost everyone. His début Casino Royale (2006) was a return to form, its sequel Quantum of Solace (2008) (a direct sequel is another Bond first) was less well received. And now the Zenith of what Dalton started, Skyfall (2012) has taken Bond further from Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan than many thought possible. He may have taken it too far to be recognisable as a Bond, but it is proving popular with fans (including me), audiences and critics. Don’t expect the ever humble Dalton to take any credit where Bond is today, but I don’t think he would have got to this point without the new direction he took the character in 1987.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The Spy Who Loved Me from yesterday was a repost from three years ago. When I originally posted the treatment for a movie based on the un-filmed Bond novel (the film of the same name is not based on Ian Fleming’s novel) I promised a similar idea based on Moonraker. Better late than never here it is after three years.

So you think you know Moonraker? As the great Ross McG from Ross v Ross once said, ‘Oh, Star Wars is huge! Lets put Bond in space with Moonraker!’ That’s not far off the mark. But back in 1955, just ten years after World War II and during the Cold War Ian Flemings’s third Bond novel was very different. The only way this would work as a movie would be to reboot the series and set the movie in the 1950’s, something I have wanted to see for a long time.

M asks Bond to join him at his club, Blades to sit in a game of bridge. Millionaire businessman Sir Hugo Drax has been winning a lot of money, M suspects him of cheating and wants to know why. Bond confirms M’s suspicions and turns the tables by cheating himself winning a large sum of money.

The mysterious Drax was a British soldier who made his fortune in the aerospace industry after being injured and suffering amnesia during World War II. A national hero because of his backing for the Moonraker project, Britain’s first nuclear missile intended as a nuclear deterrent during the cold war. (Britain’s first nuclear missile the Blue Streak was actually announced around the time the novel was published). Bond is sent to Drax’s factory near Dover to replace security officer working on the project who was shot dead. While there he meets Gala Brand, a beautiful (isn’t everyone in the Bond world) Special Branch agent working undercover as Drax’s personal assistant. It appears Bonds predecessor was killed to stop him revealing a sighting of a submarine off the coast. Bond also makes the surprising discovery (remember this is only ten years after the war) that all the scientists working on the Moonraker project are German. Meanwhile, Gala discovers the truth about the Moonraker, its first test flight will be aimed at the heart of London fitted with a Soviet nuclear warhead. She is captured and imprisoned in the building containing a beacon the missile will be aimed at.

Bond’s attempt to rescue Gala fails resulting in his capture and the destruction of his beloved Bentley. It is then that Drax, in true megalomaniac villain style reveals is back-story and his plans: he was not a British soldier and did not have amnesia. He was the leader of the commando unit (dressed in British uniform) that caused the explosion he was injured in. The amnesia, a cover story while he recovered in a British hospital. After the war he took up a new identity as cover but retained his Nazi beliefs and conceived the Moonraker to destroy London in revenge. In the process he also intends to make a killing on the stock market. To destroy all evidence Brand and Bond are moved to the area under the Moonraker’s engines just before it is fired. They promptly escape and with the help of Soviet Intelligence change the coordinates to redirect the Moonraker safely into the sea. Drax is killed attempting to escape in a Russian submarine. Bond meets up with Gala but is snubbed in favour of he fiancé.

So how have I come up with such a great story? Put simply I haven’t, this is not a treatment for a movie this is an overview of the plot lifted straight from the novel. So who would make it? Director Quentin Tarantino has often mentioned his interest in directing a Bond film. If anyone can make the 50’s setting work it is him. And to reboot the series again we need a new bond. Already a contender for the next James Bond, Michael Fassbender cemented his period credentials in X-Men: First Class and Inglourious Basterds. Gala Brand needs to be played by a talented and attractive British actress with Hollywood credibility, it has to be Emily Blunt. I’m not sure on who should play Sir Hugo Drax, maybe I am getting hung up on the red hair described in the Novel, but I am thinking Damian Lewis.

Financially rebooting the series to a 50’s or 60’s setting would be a huge risk that I can not see the studio taking. But artistically the franchise has already done all it can and said all it has to say, a new direction will give it new direction and new life. And if you are wondering the poster at the top is from a 2004 Internet hoax that claiming to have found 40 minutes of footage from an unfinished 1956 version of Moonraker directed by Orson Welles staring Dirk Bogarde as Bond, Welles as Drax.

Read Full Post »

With the latest Bond Film, Skyfall just six months away I am already thinking of where the franchise goes next.  While I’m working on a post to suggest a few alternatives I thought I would share an on post from three years ago.    It will never be made so this is  little more than a bit of fun but if it does get made tell everyone you read about it here first.

The idea is go back to original source material.  Having used little more than the title for the films Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me represent the largest un-filmed Ian Fleming stories remaining.  The Spy Who Loved could make a great Die Hard style film.  It was the tenth novel and fits in between Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service although it stands alone without any baggage from the other books, it acts as an interlude in what has become known as the “Blofeld Trilogy”.  Bond isn’t really the main character in the book.  It is told in the first person by a young woman called Vivienne Michel rather than the usual third-person narrative concentrating on Bond.  Fleming didn’t want the film to be made and only sold the rites to the title but far worse things have been produced in Flemming and Bonds names.  A film like this would divide opinions of Bond fans but could be a real chance to make a completely different film.  For those who haven’t read the books below is a breakdown of The Spy Who Loved Me and how it could be made into a film:

The book is split into three parts “Me”, “Them”, and “Him”.  Me deals with Vivienne’s back story and can be dropped for a film version. The second part of the book “Them” would be truncated.  Vivian is working in a motel as she travels through America.  At the end of the season the manager leaves her in charge for the night until the owner comes to shut up for the winter.  Instead a pair of thugs arrive on behalf of the owner.  Their plan; to burn the motel down placing the blame on Vivienne who will die in the fire allowing the owner to claim on the insurance.

The third section starts with Bond’s arrival it time to prevent the thugs from raping Vivienne.  In typical Bond style he kills the bad guys and sleeps with the girl.  This part of the film would be extended to form the majority of the film.  Probably sixty minutes in a ninety-five minute film.  I would suggest a larger number of the thugs/gangsters would be needed for the idea to work. If more material is needed a final act could be tagged on where Mr. Sanguinetti the gangster owner of the motel tries to get revenge on Bond.  A note of trivia one of the thugs is called Sol “Horror” Horowitz and was the basis for Jaws who was one of the few elements to make it into the 1977 film of the same name.  It may need an extra act such as the Bahamas scenes in Casino Royale to make it work as a film.  For this to work it would need to fit around the original text and within the context of a Bond film, in other words, how Bond got the motel rather than how Vivian got there. 

A nice touch would also be to use an un-filmed short story as the pre-credit sequence the way they did in The Living Daylights (the opening sequence is based on a short story of the same name).  The one I would suggest is “From a View to a Kill” in which Bond investigates the murder of a motorcycle dispatch and the theft of his top-secret documents.  To do this he takes the place of a dispatch-rider, kills a would be assassin and tracks down their HQ.  This could be broken down to just the motorcycle action involving Bond and the Assassin.

Read Full Post »