Casino Royale may be breaking all the box-office
records, but back in 1965 the world was on the brink
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
$30 million. Nor is Bondomania restricted to the U.S.
In England, all three films broke box-office records, and
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
$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.
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."
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
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
Bond 101 Articles