MI6 uncovers the shadowy tale of 007 director Terence Young's work on a Saddam Hussein propaganda film...

Terence Young - The Dictators Director
21st March 2003

Terence Young's career veered into obscurity after his reign as the original, and some argue the best, 007 director came to an end. MI6 now uncovers the shadowy tale of his work for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1980.

Young, who helmed "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love" and "Thunderball" (the largest inflation adjusted grossing Bond film ever) struggled to find projects of the scale and intensity of the Bond series once his reign as 007's director came to an end in 1965. After a couple of disappointing English films with Omar Sharif, Young moved to making Italian language films and slipped into obscurity.

The tale of his work for Saddam Hussein begins in 1979 when Young was approached about a biographical project commissioned by the Iraqi dictator. Saddam Hussein had come to power and his campaign of propaganda to strengthen his dictatorship was in full flow.

Right: The first Bond director - Terence Young - in the 1960s


Young was commissioned to edit "The Long Days" (a translated title from "Ayyam al-tawila"), a mammoth 6 hour biopic on the life of Saddam - at a time when the West's attitude to the regime was quite different to what is is today. Saddam's cousin, Saddam Kamel, who bore an uncanny likeness to the president, played the role of the dictator.

Above: Saddam Hussein in 1980

The film was a crucial part of the personal mythology Saddam constructed around his early life, particularly his involvement in a 1959 assassination attempt on the life of Abd-al-Karim Qassim, the brigadier who led the 1958 coup. Saddam was injured in the gunfight and fled, dressing as a bedouin and escaping Baghdad on horseback.

According to the film he rode north for four days
towards his home town of Tikrit and almost drowned swimming across the cold waters of the Tigris to freedom. He later relied upon his heroic account of the escape to build up the folklore that fuelled his strongman image.

"The Long Days" became mandatory viewing for everyone connected to Saddam's regime. Saddam himself often spied on the private screenings. Exiled Iraqi's have given accounts of sudden blackouts at the end of the 6 hour viewing, after which Saddam suddenly appeared flanked by bodyguards before delivering a personal speech.

According to reports, Young's work may have extended beyond that of editing the film. A few people who claim to have seen the film say that the direction and style of the film bears a striking resemblance to "Thunderball".

For the actor, Saddam Kamel, a patriotic performance did little to protect him from the Iraqi dictator's ever-present temper. For a while Kamel was in favour, and he even married the president's daughter Rina. But he gradually turned against Saddam. In 1995 Kamel and his brother, a senior general in the Iraqi army and a powerful figure in the regime, defected to Jordan and began to reveal secrets of the Iraqi regime. Saddam was infuriated. Within a year he enticed the two back to Iraq and days later had them brutally murdered.

Above: Young has often been credited as contributing more to the creation of 007's screen image than Sean Connery.

Segments from the film have been shown recently on US television coverage of the Iraq crisis in documentaries charting the life of Saddam Hussein. MI6 has learned that the PBS programme "Frontline" is not likely to be repeated in the near future due to the start of military action against Saddam.

Terence Young died of a heart attack on September 7th 1997.