Bond Bibles - The Incredible World of 007
23rd February 2022
Meet Lee Pfeiffer and Philip Lisa, authors of The Incredible World of 007
Ever since Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale many authors and journalists have explored and celebrated the James Bond phenomenon. While some books have been official, large format publications, others have delved deeper into specific areas of the subject. In this new series Matthew Field will meet both high-profile writers as well as some of the world’s most knowledgeable “007” experts, who have contributed to the James Bond bibliography.
– 20 August 1956
- The Incredible World of 007 (Boxtree - UK, Citadel - USA, 1992,1995)
- The Films of Sean Connery (Citadel, 1993)
- The Essential Bond (with Dave Worrall, Boxtree 1998, 1999, 2003)
– 05 December 1960
- The Incredible World of 007 (Boxtree, UK, Citadel, USA, 1992,1995)
- The Films of Sean Connery (Citadel, 1993).
Regarded as one the world’s most recognised authorities on the James Bond phenomenon, Lee Pfeiffer co-wrote with friend and fellow Bond enthusiast, Philip Lisa, the fully authorised, The Incredible World Of 007, published in 1992 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the James Bond film series. They later collaborated on a second title, The Films of Sean Connery.
Born in New Jersey, Lee Pfeiffer began a career in corporate finance. In 1991, he left that world behind to concentrate on becoming a full time writer. Pfeiffer has written fifteen books on cinema with subjects ranging from Clint Eastwood and John Wayne to James Bond. He is one of the co-founders of TWINE Entertainment, which, in 1995, produced the documentaries, ‘The Making of Goldfinger’ and ‘The Making of Thunderball’ for MGM/UA Home Entertainment. In 1998, he co-wrote with his Cinema Retro publishing partner, Dave Worrall, the most successful 007 tome ever, The Essential Bond which sold in excess of 300,000 units worldwide. Pfeiffer has taught film classes at New York University and developed tour programs of classic film locations around England. As editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Cinema Retro magazine, Pfeiffer has hosted international film events at venues such as the Players, National Arts and Lambs clubs in New York City.
Philip Lisa was also born in New Jersey. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Lisa acquired one of the finest James Bond memorabilia collections in the world. While he did not pursue a professional writing career, Lisa’s expertise on all things 007 made his authorship of a Bond related book almost inevitable. Lisa’s professional career began with his family's motel business before he became involved in his current profession, real estate.
I sat down with Lee at the Players club in New York to discuss his career as a Bond scholar. Pre-COVID, this private social club, founded in 1888 and housed in a Gothic-Revival style mansion facing Gramercy Park, could have been described as Lee’s second home. His co-writer, Phil, later contributed to the interview, via e-mail.
Matthew Field's Bond Bibles
Matthew Field's Bond Bibles
How did you both discover the world of James Bond 007?
LEE: I first saw 'From Russia With Love' in April 1964. I was seven years old. I was actually more interested in the supporting feature, which was a Vincent Price movie called ‘Twice Tall Tales’ based on the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne. After the movie had finished, I said to my dad, “Let’s go!” And he said, “Don’t you want to stay for the main feature?” I said, “I don’t want to see a love story about Russians!” Dad replied, “No, this is supposed to be really good. Everyone is talking about it.” Well that was it. When it got to the fight on the Orient Express I had never seen anything quite like it. Then Bond shoots down a helicopter with this sniper’s rifle. Then he blew up a whole fleet of speedboats with a flare gun. And then there is this woman with a knife in her shoe. This was amazing stuff! I went to see it again the next day and several more times after that. Later that year, December 1964, 'Goldfinger' was released. The first time I saw it, that single screening, made more of an impression on me than any other movie I have seen before or since. It changed my life.
PHILIP: It seems I was destined to be a 007 fan from nearly the very beginning, as my mom would take me, as a toddler and my cousin Sandy, to the drive-in theatre to see the early Bonds, ‘From Russia With Love’ and ‘Goldfinger’. My first recollection of 007 was in the summer 1967 whilst vacationing in Wildwood, New Jersey. I was to decide upon what movie to see. The choices were either ‘The Glass Bottom Boat’ with Doris Day or 'You Only Live Twice'. My dad told me about a scene in the film where a helicopter picks up a car and drops it into the sea after a car chase. I was intrigued!
Philip you amassed one of the biggest collections of James Bond memorabilia in the world. How did this begin?
PHILIP: Both my mom (Mary Ann Lisa) and I share a mania for Bond and we both share a Bond memorabilia collection that began back in the 1960s. I will never forget on Christmas Day 1975, my parents presented me with a box that had 007 posters, stills, lobby cards, and press books. All I could say was: “We gotta get more!” Some 45 years later, mom and I have acquired quite a bit more!
LEE: I remember getting my first piece of Bond memorabilia, it was the souvenir brochure for 'Thunderball' and I treasured it. I took the brochure into school to show all my friends and all the boys in Fourth Grade were hovering around looking at it. At that age, we didn’t care for the provocative, Playboy-esque photos that were in the middle of it; we were more interested in the jet pack and action shots. The Principal of the school came in, this woman looked like she was 100 years old and she picks up the brochure and sees all these pictures and says, “This is absolute filth,” and she tore it up in front of me! (Laughs)
So you both grew up in New Jersey just outside of New York. How did you become acquainted?
PHILIP: We met at a 007 memorabilia convention in New Jersey around the time 'For Your Eyes Only' was released. Lee happened to see some of the memorabilia I had either purchased or brought along. It turned out that upon chatting, he was working in a company next to Rutgers University where I was attending college. We subsequently had lunch together nearly every week to discuss 007 and bring a few ‘show and tell’ items from our collections. We became quite close as did our families and he ultimately became my Best Man at my wedding to my wife, Eileen.
LEE: I think it was the proximity of Phil attending Rutgers whilst I worked nearby at Johnson and Johnson that gave us the opportunity to become friends. I generally went with friends to bars during lunch hour and, as Phil isn’t a drinker, lunching with him gave my system a chance to recover.
You became only the second authors to write an official authorised book about the James Bond movies. Do you have any favourite Bond Bibles of your own?
LEE: Well special mention should go to the first James Bond film scholar, John Brosnan, who wrote the book, 'James Bond In the Cinema' in 1972. It was a very candid, very well written, analytical look at the first seven movies, up to 'Diamonds Are Forever'. I was 15 when it came out, it was very exciting and I remember going into New York City to Cinemabilia to get one of the first copies and I read it voraciously. I loved it and Brosnan wrote honestly about the movies: the good, the bad the ugly as he saw them! (Laughs). Obviously, Steve Rubin’s books were always inspirations and continue to be.
I also liked 'Roger Moore’s James Bond Diary' about the making of [[lald], which incidentally, was reprinted a couple of years ago. That was a really great concept, which, I wish they had carried forward. Roger simply details the ups and downs of being Bond for the first time.
Lee you are working in Johnson & Johnson and Phil you are working for the family hospitality business. At that time, neither of you were “professional” writers, so how did you find yourselves writing an official Bond book?
LEE: When I was in my last year of university, I got the idea to write a book with a friend of mine. It was called 'The Films of Clint Eastwood'. This was around 1978. We ended up getting a contract but some difficulties occurred and I don’t believe it was published until 1981. It was successful but for some reason I didn’t write another book until 1989 when I wrote a volume about John Wayne that went over very well. I never thought of doing a Bond book because Steve Rubin had told me about the problems he had encountered with EON, and I would only have wanted to do an officially licenced book with them. I thought it was too improbable to ever happen. In 1989, I went to see 'Licence To Kill' at a press screening. I thought it was a very good film, one of the best in recent years and I wrote a review of it for the New York Daily News. In the pre-Internet age, when newspapers carried a tremendous amount of clout, it was one of the most widely syndicated newspapers in America. One day I came home from work and my wife Janet said, “You’ve just missed a call from Cubby Broccoli.” I couldn’t understand for a minute why he was trying to reach me. Janet said, “He read that newspaper article where you defended 'Licence to Kill' and wanted to tell you how much he appreciated it.” Believe it or not he called back an hour later. In that distinctive New York accent of his, he just went on about how much my article had lifted his spirits, as his dog had died that day. At the end of my article it detailed my upcoming book on John Wayne. Cubby said, “Duke was a good friend of mine, send me the book when it comes out.” I sent him the book and many months passed. One day Cubby called me again to thank me and said, “Why have you never written a book about James Bond?” Without skipping a beat I replied, “Because you’ll sue me Cubby!” He laughed and said, “Well I wouldn’t sue you if I asked you to do it.” So that is how it started.
Lee, how did Phil join you as a co-writer?
LEE: Phil knew a lot about Bond and had a massive collection of stills. I was extremely busy with a career and my daughter Nicole was only three years old, so I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to devote the time required to the project, so I thought it would be prudent to have a co-author. Phil seemed to be the most obvious person to ask because we lived close to each other. Remember, in those days, that was an advantage because there was no e-mail.
PHILIP: I enjoyed Lee’s writing and learned so much from him as opposed to any English teacher or creative writing professor! His style of writing has always been quite clever and extremely entertaining, yet exceptionally informative. He generously asked me to input my knowledge into the project, not as just a contributor but as a co-author, which I am forever grateful for.
Sally Hibbin had written The Official James Bond 007 Movie Book several years earlier. How did you imagine your book to be different?
LEE: Sally had been assigned to that book, she didn’t do it out of great passion for Bond. But Sally did a good job and it was an attractive looking book. But as Bond scholars we wanted to do something a bit deeper. I said to Cubby, “I love Bond, I love most of the films but I don’t love all the films. I am very critical of some of them and we have to write freely or nobody is going to like the book and it will read like a press release.” And he seemed happy with that. To my surprise, Cubby said, “I don’t care what you write - just put a disclaimer in the front of the book that your views don’t necessarily reflect mine.” He explained that he was on friendly terms with most of the alumni from the series and didn’t want to offend anyone. I was surprised he afforded us the creative freedom I had demanded but I suppose it was because he knew we weren’t out to make the book a hit piece on the franchise.
PHILIP: We wanted to do a sanctioned tribute to the film character we loved from the perspective of die-hard fans, with a deep knowledge about the subject.
Tell me about your journey mapping out the content of the book…
LEE: Before we knew it we had a publisher, Boxtree in England and Citadel in the United States. And then Phil and I sat down and thought, “What are we going to do?” We had a publishing deal and the freedom to do what we wanted. We decided to put together a book that would excite us, from a reader’s perspective. At the time all the previous James Bond books had either had great photos and not very informative text or informative text and lousy production value. What excited us is we had the opportunity, with Cubby’s blessing, to do both.
PHILIP: As collectors we could select photos that we knew had never been seen, let alone published, to highlight our text. We wanted James Bond to be the centre of attention, this book was about his world. We didn’t want stand-alone shots of supporting characters or cursory scenes but those with 007 enhancing such characters or scenes.
LEE: EON gave us carte blanche. There was no interference whatsoever. Each chapter broke down the making of an individual film and a critical evaluation of it, illustrated with rare artwork. Further chapters we designed the way we wanted. We had a section on memorabilia and toys, bloopers even. I found out later some of our bloopers were our own bloopers because in those days it was harder to research this stuff than it is now. (Laughs).
How much assistance did you ask EON for in preparing and researching the book?
LEE: Not much actually. As I said, Phil has a huge collection of photographs, which in those days were very rare. So much more material has now come to light since. We really wanted to get interviews with people so that is where EON provided help.
One of the interviews, which is particularly interesting, is Timothy Dalton. He was still the Bond of record at the time.
LEE: I do remember Dalton was a sensitive issue. ‘Licence To Kill’ had under-performed at the US box office but he was intending to make another. And as you may know he has always been slightly reticent about doing interviews. Through Cubby’s personal intervention we did a phone interview with Dalton. It was right after ‘The Rocketeer’ came out. It was good to have him in the book. I was still working my day job when I interviewed Roger Moore. I did this interview with him on speakerphone from my office, never imagining that many years later I would become friends with him. I figured, “This is the only time I’m ever going to get to speak with Roger Moore.” In fact I hosted him in this very club in 2008 when his memoir was published and we had a black tie event here.
As a writing partnership how did you divide the work?
PHILIP: We each took alternate titles and wrote them in random order so there was no sense of the beginning few titles are good but they tend to lag off later on. We then came together at Lee’s home after having worked our day jobs to concoct some semblance of uniformity in the writing style each of us had. We had another great Bond aficionado, John Ewaniuk, proofread the work for any blatant errors.
The book had a great title. Was it by any chance inspired by the 60s TV special, ‘The Incredible World of James Bond’?
LEE: Yes and that was Phil’s idea.
PHILIP: The working title was ‘The James Bond Scrapbook’, but we both wanted something more distinguished. I then remembered the 1965 TV special for ‘Thunderball’, ‘The Incredible World of James Bond’. Hey, if Ian Fleming could pinch the name of James Bond from an ornithologist, then what was wrong with me tapping into the TV show for inspiration? At the time, not many were really aware of the original TV show anyway! So 'The Incredible World of 007' it was. Lee loved it, the publishers were happy with it…and so was EON.
LEE: We also wanted to write about those Bond TV specials in the book, another was called, ‘Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond’ made to promote ‘You Only Live Twice.’ But there was no way of seeing them in the early '90s, they were like the Holy Grail and nobody had seen them since they were first broadcast. Saul Cooper at EON arranged to send us VHS copies. I remember the day they arrived in the mail, Phil and I were like, “Wow!” we were so excited. Today everything is on YouTube.
Cubby wrote the Foreword for you…
LEE: Yes and that is a big part of the story. While preparing the book I called up Cubby and I said, “We want to do an interview with you.” Thinking he would agree to it over the phone he said, “Why don’t you come out to the house?”
PHILIP: I was to appear on the game show, ‘Wheel of Fortune’ in LA. Lee’s family accompanied my family for a vacation in which he was able to arrange a personal meeting and interview with Cubby at his home.
LEE: It was quite intimidating for two middle class guys from central New Jersey to go to this incredible place in Beverly Hills. I remember we drove up this long driveway and as we got to the top, there was dear old Cubby waiting for us with these two huge dogs barking like hell.
PHILIP: It was just like the scene in 'Moonraker' where 007 is ‘welcomed’ by Drax and his Dobermans!
LEE: Cubby was so great, no questions were off limits. At the time Harry Saltzman was still alive and he spoke candidly about their relationship. He respected Harry a lot and he said he and Dana had recently seen Harry because he was very ill. Cubby’s Irving G. Thalberg Award was sitting on the mantle piece. He said, “Go pick it up!” I picked it up and only Phil witnessed this but I almost dropped it! It was much heavier than I thought.
MF: I want to ask you about your methodology. When we are conducting interviews today we are using smartphones, Zoom or FaceTime. How did you record these precious interviews in the early 1990s?
LEE: Well everything was taped. Microcassettes were what we used back then. But you were still using a phone that was on the wall, on a long extension cord. There was no port where you could plug in a wire so you would literally have to hold the microcassette up to the base of the phone. It was all done very archaically.
PHILIP: I remember setting up telephone microphones and trying to make sure both ends of the conversations could be heard, and trying not to miss anything when one had to change the cassette tape.
LEE: But the job of the writer hasn’t changed. You tape an interview and then you sit down and transcribe it. Today, with all the interviews I do for Cinema Retro, I send the digital files to a transcription house. That was too exotic of an option back in the day for two freelance writers. It would be interesting to go back and listen to those tapes again.
Lee, can you recount the story when you asked Cubby to read the transcript of his interview for sign off?
LEE: I recall I had transcribed it verbatim and sent it to him to proof. Well, Cubby still had plenty of his New York upbringing in him and there were a number of profanities in the interview that he asked me to remove because he would be embarrassed to have them in print.
The inside title page feature original hand drawn artwork of each of the then four Bond actors. Who was behind these?
LEE: The sketches were done by a good friend of mine, Mike Boldt, who is a professional musician but he dabbled in artistic projects as a pastime. I thought it added an offbeat aspect to the beginning of the book.
MF: The Incredible World of 007 was published in 1992 to mark the 30th anniversary of the James Bond film series. I believe it was released in the UK first?
LEE: Yes and Boxtree created the worst cover in the history of publishing. We had no say over it and we were very disappointed. They had decided to get artsy and they used James Bond’s legs crossed over like on the poster of ‘You Only Live Twice,’ and the artist put white socks on him. (Laughs). I said, “What is this? The Beverly Hillbillies does Bond?” But it was too late. We were appalled, although I think that for a second printing, they at least coloured the socks silver. When the U.S. version came out it was uninspired but better, although they eliminated George Lazenby from the cover, which annoyed us. From that point on, I’ve always argued that I need cover approval for my books. It’s hard for an author to get that right, but my experience on the Bond book made me a bit paranoid.
PHILIP: Does anyone wear white socks with a tux? Still hate it! The cover of the updated edition with the gun barrel is much better!
MF: Did Cubby ever tell you his thoughts on the book?
LEE: I was on vacation in Palm Springs. The phone rang in my room and it was Cubby. To this day I don’t know how he tracked me down to this hotel in the days before mobile phones and e-mail. He said, “I just got an advance copy of your book.” I was a little nervous because we did write some unflattering comments about a couple of the movies. He said something to the effect of, “This book is beyond my wildest dreams. I am going to keep this book in my bedroom because it is something I will love to leaf through. The photographs are great and so are the interviews.” I was on cloud nine. He then invited my wife and I to LA for lunch the next day to celebrate. We went to the Bistro Gardens, his favourite lunch spot. With Cubby was Dana, Michael Wilson and John Parkinson who had just joined EON Productions as the new head of licencing. I would call Cubby periodically to see how he was doing. He was always good for a half hour conversation. I last saw him in New York in 1994. He and Dana invited me to dinner. It was a wonderful evening. He confided in me they were probably going to hire Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond. I don’t think even Pierce knew it at that point. That was the way he was. If you were in his circle, he wouldn’t insult you by telling you to keep something confidential. He knew I would. Shortly after that evening, his health problems kicked in and he was basically in seclusion until he passed away. I miss him terribly. One of the most moving events I ever attended was Cubby’s memorial at the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It was emotional, sad, hilarious and everything in between.
MF: Did you both participate in much publicity to promote the book?
PHILIP: We did a few radio interviews together and separately. Lee did a solo on the Howard Stern Show. I did one for Radio Universal, and we both were part of the Geraldo (Rivera) Show when he did a special honouring the Bond women. We appeared towards the end to mention our book, the memorabilia, and a few items of 007 trivia.
LEE: Today, it’s a lot easier to promote books through social media. In those days, it was a lot more difficult to get the word out. But the book did well and it was updated for 'GoldenEye'.
Was The Incredible World of 007 ever published in any other languages?
LEE: I don’t recall the entire situation with foreign printings, but I do know that I was in a bookstore in Tokyo and the Japanese friend I was with noticed the book on sale. It was in the Japanese language and was entirely different in terms of format, as it was a smaller size.
You both collaborated on a second book together, The Films of Sean Connery. How did that project come about?
PHILIP: I think Citadel, the US publishers of Incredible World were very open to another book project from Lee and/or Lee and I, so we thought a homage to Sean Connery would be ideal, as a book packed with pictures of Connery hadn't really been done until then. So we both banged out another set of chapters for each of his films with (again) more 'making of' and behind-the-scenes material rather than simple synopses. I remember the clever dedication I fashioned to my bride-to-be: "To Eileen, MY 'Pretty Irish Girl'" in homage to Connery's ‘Darby O'Gill and the Little People’!
LEE: I had a good relationship with Citadel Press as my previous books had all done well for them. As the Bond book had been successful, it wasn’t difficult to get them to do one about Connery. At that time, there had been countless biographies of him but no one had done an in-depth study of each of his individual films and that’s what appealed to Phil and I. It did well and we later put out an updated edition.
How do you both look back on The Incredible World of 007? It was a landmark publication because it was the first official Bond book to combine behind the scenes anecdotes, trivia and a ton of never before seen photographs…
LEE: It’s interesting flicking through it with you now Matt. I can honestly say I haven’t looked at the book since it first came out. For its day, it was a sincere effort and was regarded very well by fans. They were grateful to get anything about Bond during that six-year hiatus between ‘Licence To Kill’ and ‘GoldenEye’. It featured candid interviews with intelligent questions by people who knew what fans wanted to know. It was marvellous being able to speak to so many of the exalted people who worked on the series. It certainly sold well. I guess if I read it closely today, I wouldn’t be happy with it but I don’t think any author, should ever revisit their work.
PHILIP: The most fun about it was that Lee and I were able to ‘Bond’ over a subject we had great affinity for. I think that working together as a team, the project turned out to be significantly better than it could have, had either one of us worked on it solo. One of the sentiments I write when signing copies is that I hope the book “entertains the living daylights out of you” and when I look back at it and reminisce, as a reader, I think it did and still does!
LEE: 'The Incredible World of 007' was a wonderful experience and having Cubby’s personal participation was amazing. I worked on this book at a very interesting point in my life. Half way through the project, I left the professional world and perused a full time career as a freelance writer, which can be viewed as a very courageous, or a very stupid thing to do! 30 years later I have never looked back.