Guest writer Simon Firth offers a collector's perspective on the history of Bond's front of house marketing
The set for "Dr No" provides us with the penultimate quiz show point for this report. One of the cards has a shot of Connery and Ian Fleming talking on the "Dr No" control room set. One must but wonder whether, following the incorrectly titled cards mentioned earlier, the producers of these sets figured Fleming to be one of the principle actors. One may never know. "Dr No" was the only time Moneypenny graduated to lobby card status in a pleasant shot of her and Connery in the office.
The set for "From Russia With Love" is actually a quite accomplished set in terms of reproduction and choice of shots. This is of course, aside from the fact that the 'Connery on the phone', 'Connery in bed with Bianchi' and the 'boat chase' cards also turned up titled as "OHMSS". As will become apparent, the selection process for most of the sets could well have been time dependent as opposed to what would best sell a repeat viewing of a film. Three cards have also been printed on a glossy paper as opposed to the normally accepted 'card'. "Goldfinger" escapes by barely the breadth of a hair for any comment of note although the odd "dead card" is now starting to appear.
"Thunderball" nearly escaped comment but for the oddest choice of two cards. It is at this stage that the card selection process mirrors that of a "Moonraker" story element in that they 'go in two by two'. For "Thunderball", there are two cards that depict the pre-credits fight scene between Bond and Jacques Bouvier - the time between these shots totalling maybe 10 seconds. One could attempt to extrapolate at length the wisdom behind such choices; perhaps it was deemed to be a key scene, perhaps it was a favourite scene of the marketing charge, or maybe one could excuse such choices as a direct result of lack of resource - all other stills had been mislaid over the passage of time perhaps.
Or perhaps it could just be labeled for what it was. Laziness. The one saving grace to this set is a nice shot of Bond and Domino on the beach, thereby raising it's quality ever so slightly in this chronicler's eye.
"You Only Live Twice" is the largest set thus far, exampling eight cards with a carefree re-introduction of the credits shouting, 'Sean Connery IS James Bond'; a crediting that at the time of the film's main release in 1967, Connery fought to replace with '… as James Bond' leading to a profusion of snipes covering the offending verbiage and thereby in a swoop, mitigating any typecasting or mindless association with his thus far, main cinematic success.
Again, couple-Dom is omnipresent. To wit, there are two shots from the roof top foot chase, two shots from the bathtub scene and two shots on the volcano side. As previously mentioned, dead cards are now more liberally inserted into the mix. A dead card, a term given by collectors and dealers when assessing its true worth, is essentially a card not including any of the main actors and/or depicting a scene of merit-less worth - an example being a shot of an empty set. The most noteworthy example in this set would perhaps be James Bond running into a doorway away from a horde of ne'er do wells with his back to us. One will begin to wonder further at the selection process from this point on.
The set for "OHMSS" sets itself above its main release counterpart in that it is a set of four, but still manages to showcase Lazenby in exactly the same number of cards as its predeceasing main release set of eight - that said, at least his presence percentage is up to 50% here. Also like the main release set, there is a crew shot exemplifying equipment being carried up the mountain. No doubt this last card was intended to be the clincher for all those potential viewers hitherto sitting on the fence as to whether to see the film that night. The guard fight at Piz Gloria card has also turned up as an incorrectly titled Russia card printed separately on lobby card type card and also a glossy paper - indeed these cards maybe nothing more than typesetting cards that managed to find their way into the market.
"Diamonds are Forever" shows us a card whereby Leiter is promoted to lobby card status and also Sammy Davis Jnr's presence is reinstated to the film in a card showing Bond in the bath reading a book with Sammy's face on the cover - this following his scene being cut out of the final print. One is also treated to a shot of Bond on the Whyte House 'can'. Tremendous.
The set for "Live and Let Die" has a card oddity similar to that of one of the "Dr No" main release cards showing the daytime image of the day-for-night shot of Bond, hang-gliding and kicking the guard over the edge when accessing Solitaire's house. As for variety and selection of cards, this is perhaps the best of the MGM festival sets, cards all from differing scenes showing a good flavour for the film and no dead cards, if question of whether the male in the glider is indeed Moore or a stunt man.
The "Golden Gun" set is another accomplished set offering a fully rounded selection, the odd previously unseen shot and, if we can count a shot of Scaramanga's funhouse Bond mannequin in the guise of Moore, no dead cards. As an aside, the cards, 'Moore boating along the canal', 'the karate fight' and 'Moore standing beside an Asian stature', were also titled as "Moonraker". "The Spy Who Loved Me" is represented by a set of seven, two of which show the train fight and four of which take one through the escaping of Atlantis scene.
"Moonraker" boasts an unseen underwater shot of Bond fighting with the snake together with a host of others having already been used to promote the film. Three shots take one through the space station. The one, faintly un-Bond like, portrait of Roger Moore sporting the Seiko watch has been printed flipped; so, Moore's facial mole is on the left, parting on the right, watch on the wrong hand. However, the way the rest of this collection has been amassed, this should come as no surprise.
The last film for this festival was "For Your Eyes Only" and once again, the spirit of Noah rises from the dust of his Ark with two cards showing the poolside fight and two cards set on the beach following Countess Lisl's death. With a full two hours from each film, quite why there is a prevalence of several cards from the same scene is curious. One must assume that a marketing person given to responsibility and professionalism, and with his clients' best interests at heart, would wish to showcase a wide variety of entertainment to be had from the viewing of these films, thereby raising interest with the knock on effect to increase admissions and, thereby, returns.
But, as has been pointed out earlier, this festival never came to be and one can only wonder, or from the above, surmise why. Certainly the campaign through the lobby cards suggests a hurried and unplanned rush to market destined for failure - not a result one normally associates with Eon.
The prices for lobby cards are starting to spiral such that for the early main release sets, it is unlikely that one will find a dealer who will sell a complete set. Heritage Auctions and eBay do tend to sell complete sets but singularly, "Dr No" first release cards are now selling in galleries at £200 to £300 each making the collecting of a whole set in decent condition to be a financially monumental task. The other films' cards are following closely behind with rising values. Anything associated with Bond has an accepted price inflation adjustment due to its ongoing popularity and collectors who are doing it solely for investment reasons are exacerbating the situation.
It is at this point, that this feature has had its last addendum. "Skyfall" opened to massively critical acclaim amidst the 50th Anniversary of the film series together with perhaps the feel good factor of the Olympics and James' 'turn' during the opening ceremony. It also helped MGM to turn a profit with a $1.1bn worldwide revenue, thus presumably assuring the appearance of Bond 24. There were a slew of posters and banners as part of the poster campaign which disappointingly ran very contrary in style to the Deakins genius photographic content of the film being promoted and, no lobby cards. By this point, the lobby cards had become International sets and by and large, used mostly in the Eastern Asian markets. Two months prior to the release date, it was thought that either Sony US or Thailand were to produce a set as some of their tent pole pictures earlier in the same year had been similarly accommodated. But it was not to be. An enterprising soul in Thailand concocted a set of 12 to perhaps fill this collectors' market need but without the all magical word of 'original' in the advertising copy. Only a couple of sets were sold.
Sign up for occasional email updates from MI6. Get notified of breaking Bond news, and digests of recently releases features: