Casino Royale may be breaking all the box-office records, but back in 1965 the world was on the brink of Bondmania...

Time Tunnel: On The Brink Of Bondmania
25th Janaury 2007

Casino Royale may be breaking all the box-office records, but back in 1965 the world was on the brink of Bondmania. On June 11th 1965, Time Magazine reported on how 007 was sweeping the globe ahead of the fourth film - Thunderball...

JAMES BOND IS BACK ... TO BACK! screamed the ads and the marquees. Dr. No and From Russia with Love, both less than three years old, were being double-billed across the U.S. In the New York area, they jammed 26 theaters, grossed $650,000 for the week. The same crowds, the same large grosses in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington; at the drive-ins, traffic rivaled the commuting hour.

What makes the box-office figures the more astonishing is that both films are grossing nearly as much the second time around as the first.

parking the revival is the success of Goldfinger, the third Bond film, still finishing its first run and heading for a gross that now seems likely to reach $30 million. Nor is Bondomania restricted to the U.S. In England, all three films broke box-office records, and Ian Fleming's last book, the posthumous Man with the Golden Gun, has already climbed to the top of the bestseller list.

Right: Sean Connery poses with the Bond girls of Goldfinger in a 1964 publicity shot from the set of Fort Knox (Pinewood Studios)


$100 Million Take
There seems to be no geographical limit to the appeal of sex, violence and snobbery with which Fleming endowed his British secret agent. In Tokyo, the queue for Goldfinger stretches half a mile. In Brazil, where From Russia broke all Rio and Sao Paulo records, one unemployed TV actor had only to change his name to Jaime Bonde to be swamped with offers. In Beirut, where Goldfinger outdrew My Fair Lady, even Goldfinger's hat-hurling bodyguard, Oddjob, has become a minor hero.

To date, in hard cover and paperbacks, Bond books have been read by some 30 million, and United Artists estimates that 25 million have seen Bond in reel life. By the time all three current Bond films have been milked dry, the take may top $100 million.

Gadgets Galore
The fact that James Bond has developed into the biggest masscult hero of the decade has given serious pause to such as Britain's Novelist Kingsley Amis who ranks Fleming "with those demigiants of an earlier day, Jules Verne, Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle"; and to Columbia's Jacques Barzun, who deplores "the studies by academic critics who have argued over Fleming's morals and philosophies."

British Columnist Malcolm Muggeridge is also appalled. While admitting that Bond's "instant appeal to attractive women, his dash and daring and smartness combined with toughness, make him every inch a hero of our time," he also notes that "insofar as one can focus on so shadowy and unreal a character, he is utterly despicable: obsequious to his superiors, pretentious in his tastes, callous and brutal in his ways, with strong undertones of sadism, and an unspeakable cad in his relations with women, toward whom sexual appetite represents the only approach."

What Fleming's literary critics overlook is that in transferring Bond from fiction to film, and endowing him with all the attributes of Scottish-born Actor Sean Connery, a new twist has been added. Says Chief Scriptwriter Richard Maibaum in the current Esquire: "The common denominator is deadpan spoofing. We know it, the audience knows it, yet they are perfectly willing to alternately believe and disbelieve what is happening on the screen." To help illusion along, there are not only gadgets galore — Bond's tricked up Aston-Martin is now a main attraction at the New York World's Fair—but there is also Pussy Galore, to say nothing of Tilly Masterson and her gilded sister Jill, Tatiana Romanova, and Honeychile Rider.

Bubbles by the Reef
Currently completing the next Bond film, Thunderball, in Nassau and London, Co-Producer Kevin McClory predicts: "In this film, James Bond will be a bigger superman than he has ever been before, bigger than he ought to be." To make sure the film tops fantasy, $1,500,000 is being sunk into underwater effects alone, including a drowned Vulcan bomber, a two-man sub with mock-up atom bombs (stenciled "Handle like eggs") tucked under its manta-ray wings, eight SPECTRE henchmen skimming through the water on jet-powered underwater scooters. There will even be underwater sex, although all the cameras will show is bubbles merging by a reef.

Such goings on have had Nassau in an uproar for weeks. The company staged an out-of-season Junkanoo carnival parade for background shots that laid up half the island with hangovers, invited over the whole jet set from Palm Beach for other background shots, and built the "Kiss Kiss Club" on Huntington Hartford's Paradise Island with such style that one old Nassauvian remarked, "Best damned nightclub on the island. They should have left it there." But it all left Connery himself on the blah side. "There's an awful lot of this stuff," he groused. "Next they'll be making Son of . . . It's got so one needs the constitution of a rugby player."

Clobbered Widow
Nor is Connery backward about claiming that he has helped the James Bond image along no end. "You must realize," he says, "that Ian Fleming's books began coming out after the war and rationing and all that, and they had all this selectivity of detail of eating and drinking. It was marvelous journalism. But Ian told me it was nothing but padding. You know, vodka must be shaken and not stirred, that kind of razzmatazz. But he did write with a bit of size." The only thing the Fleming books lacked, in Connery's view, was a sense of humor. "I discussed it with Ian, and he thought there was humor in them. But Terence Young and I did not. So we injected some."

Director Terence Young agrees, "In a Bond film you aren't involved in cinema verite or avantgarde. One is involved in colossal fun." Just what turn the fun can take is indicated by Thunderball's top-secret opening sequence. There, in rapid order, Bond clobbers a widow ("she" turns out to be a man), strangles him (her) with a fireplace poker, then escapes from the balcony with the aid of a jet-powered backpack, and finally drives off in his Aston-Martin with a blonde.

Above: Stuntman Bob Simmons played Jacques Boitier (disguised as his "widow") in the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball

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