MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Category: SPECTRE (page 2 of 3)

THE CARS OF SPECTRE – Catching BOND IN MOTION’s new SPECTRE collection

THE CARS OF SPECTRE Launch - 17-11-15 - Photo © Mark O'Connell (11)

Since Bond In Motion‘s launch in March 2014 (full review and galleries), EON Productions and the London Film Museum’s collection of Bond vehicle gems has been attracting fans, tourists, kids and petrol heads alike from across the globe. Masterminded by the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands with EON Productions and its Archive Director Meg Simmonds on keen godparent duties, Bond In Motion celebrates those magnificent 007 men and women of Bond and especially their flying, driving and diving machines. Catching Bullets’ Mark O’Connell was invited to take the new display for a spin. And yes, he got to sit in an Aston. And yes, there were buttons to press.

THE CARS OF SPECTRE Launch - DB10 - 17-11-15 - Photo © Mark O'Connell (12)

 

Hot on the heels (or tyre tracks) of 007’s newest bullet, SPECTRE, the London Film Museum has now just launched its first special exhibition celebrating a new 007 movie – The Cars of SPECTRE. Since its 2014 launch where producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson first announced Bond’s newest Aston Martin, this new exhibition helps makes the welcome statement that Bond In Motion will be continuing indefinitely – much to the pride of Jonathan Sands and his museum team who have thoroughly enjoyed the ride, feedback and public enthusiasm so far.

“We are so excited to be presenting our first exhibition dedicated to SPECTRE. We regularly update Bond In Motion with never-before-seen gems from previous adventures but this is the first time we’ve been able to display vehicles from a film that is currently in cinemas around the world”

Jonathan Sands, London Film Museum founder & CEO

Sited in a brand new space amidst 007’s greatest vehicles (which in turn have had a great bout of feng-shui which has refreshed the whole exhibition in the best way – and sees the entire exhibition really using that underground space), The Cars of SPECTRE has now opened its bespoke car doors for the public with apt timing for cinemagoers.

THE CARS OF SPECTRE Launch - Rolls Royce Silver Wraith - 17-11-15 - Photo © Mark O'Connell (10)

As other SPECTRE exhibits are added to EON’s other two exhibitions (Washington DC’s Exquisitely Evil and the touring Designing Bond), The Cars of SPECTRE‘s main four-wheeled stars are the gleaming triumvirate of Hinx’s Jaguar C-X75, Oberhauser’s 1951 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and of course the uber exclusive, Aston Martin DB10. Only around ten DB10s were reportedly commissioned but Bond In Motion in fact has two already. Well, one and a very cool half. The DB10 ejector seat stunt rig and a Land Rover Defender (straight from a mountain in Austria) are on display too and testament to the wizardry of Bond, the mathematics of such stunt sequences and the sheer effort that goes into making 007 look effortless. Though there is no Frank Sinatra CD left over in the DB10 by 009.

Montage 2

Added to that is a rich array of SPECTRE storyboards, clapperboards, props and costumes. Easily the coolest cabinet aptly flanking the DB10 is Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford Windsor three piece suit from the Rome funeral scenes and subsequent car chase (complete with collar pin, Tom Ford tie and Crockett & Jones Camberley boots). Yet equally striking is Hinx’s black on black suit on sentry duty by the fire damaged Jaguar and costume designer Jany Temime’s Moroccan trouser suit for Dr Madeleine Swann. Q gets his own display with his ID card, spectacles (SPECTRE-cals….sorry), Q Lab production models, the Omega Seamaster 300 watch and already iconic SPECTRE ring complete the line-up.

The Cars of SPECTRE opens on the 18th November 2015 as part of Bond In Motion. There is no extra charge for the new exhibition (beyond the normal admission price) and the gift shop is certainly stocked with SPECTRE goodies….but no cat food. And be sure to check out the cutest SPECTRE exhibit already making itself at home at Covent Garden – namely Blofeld’s Bath-o-Sub from Diamonds Are Forever.

For a full gallery of photos go to Catching Bullets Facebook page.

THE CARS OF SPECTRE (from left) The Jaguar C-X75, The Day of the Dead skulduggery & the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2015

The Cars of SPECTRE

Bond In Motion, 45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London.

Full price – £14.50

Child Ticket – [5-15years] £9.50

Concession Ticket – £9.50 [Students, 65 + and freedom pass holders]

Family Ticket – £38

Under 5 – Free

THE CARS OF SPECTRE Launch - DB10 - 17-11-15 - Photo © Mark O'Connell (15)

With thanks to EON Productions, Meg Simmonds, Jonathan Sands, White Ltd and the team at Bond In Motion.

 

THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM – Reviewing SPECTRE and Bond’s newest bullet

SPOILERS!!

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“The dead are alive” whispers a humble caption as an audacious and sinister opening shot soars, swoops and tracks into one of Bond’s greatest opening overtures. As a lone figure pushes through a pulsing exodus of Day of the Dead carnival goers, it’s Samedi Night Fever on the streets of Mexico City. Spinning senoritas, sexy La Catrinas and cadavarious cads jostle and party in a glorious and ghoulish ‘one take’ melange of remembrance and skulduggery. Pinned to one ‘continuous’ and brilliantly mounted five minute take, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera finds our man James and his corpse bride already embroiled in a deadly hunt of cat and louse. Cue all manner of roof hopping, cuff shooting and a remembrance funday the likes of which Craig’s Bond has never done before with such zest, scope and ball-busting ambition. With Tambuco’s pounding percussion, Chris Corbould’s wholly logical special effects, Jamy Temime’s bravura costume design and Gary Powell’s heart-pounding stunt work – these are department heads at the utter peak of their Bond game. And this is just the first ten minutes of Spectre. Not even that. But already this breathless, apocalypse wow of a helicopter fight over the Zócalo puts this movie’s opening gambit up there with any Union Jack parachute or jetpack escape.

That playful sense of relief and victory has been slightly absent from the Craig era. It didn’t sit with the internal dramatics and renovated psyche of our man James. But in Spectre these opening heroics are fierce, epic and nail bitingly victorious. Craig and director Sam Mendes utterly earn that moment when Sam Smith’s mid Sixties strings fire like familiar harpoon guns into a John Barry-savvy ocean and Daniel Kleinman’s inky titles begin their wraithlike dance. As writhing snakes form the cornea of an eye, eye sockets burn like it’s 1973 and Live and Let Die all over again and Kleinman pays apt reverence to Salvador Dali’s multiple eye motif (from Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound), Spectre’s notion of surveillance and watching is readily apparent. The turbulent wake behind a speeding bullet becomes the tentacles of an octopus that grips, smothers and seduces; and a naked Daniel Craig stares at the audience as various hands and arms flail for his attention (in a homo-baiting visual not totally dissimilar to a topless, faceless George Lazenby in a OHMSS teaser poster). As the titles make one of cinema’s most utterly reassuring declarations that once again “Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions presents”, a million shards of glass do indeed haunt Bond from his past when the Ghosts of Bond Films Past, Le Chiffre and Silva twist and remind like story phantoms. Contrary to some of the naysayers bashing Sam Smith, it is a wholly fresh notion to cast a male vocalist and a pained love song that retracts the traditional and bombastic momentum of a Bond song with a quiet falsetto or three (Communard Bond anyone?!).

3895702_the-teaser-trailer-for-spectre-is-here_45059d09_mAnd before you know it, we’re back through that double tufted leather door and Ralph Fiennes’ vexed M bashing Bond for being a Guardian headline. The world’s security agencies and MI6’s Double O Section are allegedly at a crossroads – a cyber sea-change in an ever prescient world of refugees, holiday resort terrorism and identity theft. The rigid, Apprentice contestant sneering of newcomer Andrew Scott and his bureaucratic Max Denbigh are flagging up change for everything that M and Bond know . A new shared surveillance network called Nine Eyes proposes replacing agents in the field with “drones” and previously guarded nations will rather spuriously now “share” information. The thrust of Spectre is utter Edward Snowden and his damaging and downright petrifying claims about government surveillance techniques. This is not surprising for Eon and this particular Bond film. Producer Barbara Broccoli currently has her film making sights on Glenn Greenwald’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, No Place to Hide – Edward Snowden, the NSA and The Surveillance State. In Spectre the NSA is the fictional CNS – the Centre for National Security – or perhaps a rather dubiously managed central nervous system rife for abuse and personal intrusion. Once again out on his own and saddled with diktats from above that even M cannot stop, Bond must not only pursue the mission he is already on when the film starts, he must also do so with the least interaction with the home side.

LAS-48_AW_29320-Spectre-1000x500In Spectre there is a wonderful stuck in boarding school during the holidays dynamic about the M, Moneypenny, Q and Tanner foursome. With Denbigh pitched as Spectre’s blinkered and dangerously naïve Ofsted inspector, Fiennes beleaguered, but principled turn as MI6’s headmaster is one of the film’s highlights. Still imbued with that ex-army, Northern Irish veteran life alluded to in Skyfall, Fiennes’ M is a fiercely principled man, defending with pride the skills of “my quartermaster” and of course top agent, Bond. Echoing one of Bond’s educations in 2008’s Quantum of Solace and probably the key thrust of Spectre, Fiennes firmly believes “a licence to kill means knowing when not to kill”. Playing down some of the near idiot savant tics of the character in Skyfall, Ben Whishaw’s Q relaxes his quartermaster into a supporter of 007. Less cool and aloof geek, he is now more Airbnb savvy hipster getting himself embroiled in a perilous field trip with only the thinnest of escape options. It is a seriously encouraging state of affairs when Bond’s home side are made up of at least three possible future Knights of the British acting fraternity – Fiennes, Kinnear and Whishaw.

1$_V?_Job NameOne almost passing moment of M dining alone (at Rules – Covent Garden’s real dining refuge as featured in the spy worlds of writers Graham Greene and John Le Carre) is so well pitched as an out of hours Moneypenny and Q show concern for Bond, the mission and their careworn boss. Once again London is a support character in Spectre. But this is a very different London to that so gloriously used in 2012’s Skyfall and the wake of the Jubilee and the Olympics. This is a London for loners. Bond lives alone in a decidedly sparse apartment, M dines alone or is on the lamb with only a meagre holdall of his possessions, a lone Q operates into the early hours out of his own refuge, Moneypenny walks down empty streets at night and MI6’s abandoned base at Vauxhall now cuts a lonely, derelict sight.

Cut to an Italian job in Rome and a funeral rendezvous with Monica Bellucci’s striking and life worn widow, Lucia Sciarra. “Can’t you see I’m grieving?” she barks as Bond’s coy “No, I can’t” is not long followed by quite a passionate bout of Catholic baiting nooky. Not even the Pope could absolve Bond of his sins now. Spectre is a decidedly passionate film. After Lea Seydoux’s Dr Madeleine Swann and Bond are embroiled in a highly brutal train fight with Dave Bautista’s burly Hinx, an urgent instrumental version of Sam Smith’s title song spills into what is a really passionate embrace and a great Roger Moore inspired answer to “well, what do we do now?”. Seydoux’s Madeline Swann is a markedly downbeat Bond woman. Played by rising French actress Seydoux (Blue is The Warmest Colour, Grand Central, Midnight In Paris) the Proustian Madeleine Swann is a play on words and continues Skyfall and writer John Logan’s literary cameos. A madeleine cake was famously referenced at the beginning of Proust’s Swann’s Way – when the subject marks how a nostalgia-making madeleine brings back a tumult of hard emotions and childhood remembrances. Further underlining the nod, Swann’s Way was the first chapter of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherché Du Temps Perdu, 1913) which translates as the more familiar Remembrance of Things Past and is all over Spectre as Bond, Madeleine and Oberhauser almost trip over their childhood photos and regret.

A long time casting wish for the Bond camp, Monica Bellucci’s presence is a beguiling, yet all too brief one. It is a slither of an appearance, but one that sets the film up for one of its masterstrokes – the reintroduction of criminal organisation, Spectre. One gate-crashing bout of Bond’s best Italian language skills later and it’s For Your Eyes Wide Shut as Bond infiltrates a cult-framed criminal summit – a ruthless enclave of vengeful business, dubious start-up schemes and the minutes of terrorism. Fearful accountants attempt buoying up middling business success, murderous assignments are tendered out to the most tender-less of candidates and one particular new board member makes a viciously violent play on the phrase ‘by the pricking of my thumbs’. And there is a microphone. And a tannoy. There is no monorail alas, but in a world of mass cyber communication it is refreshing to see how a starter business like Spectre still relies on a pointed microphone. On a stand.

Actually, Spectre the film is refreshingly tech-free. All keyboard tapping intrigue is kept to a minimum, a trickling line of spilt beer is as good a way of finding hidden rooms these days, a secret hand gesture rather than a retina scan gets you into villains lairs, an alpine clinic demands all phones and guns to be handed over upon arrival and the DB10 is not fully fledged just yet (but it does boast a Frank Sinatra cd – in a possible nod to one of Cubby Broccoli’s close pals). In the best John Glen era swagger, Bond is very much “on his own this time” as the story and M require Bond to not communicate with anyone.

And so to Christoph Waltz. Alongside Javier Bardem, the double Oscar winner was the Bond films must-have villain. The National Theatre of Eon now has its most apt actor to nail that necessary sense of European villainy so memorably pioneered in the SPECTRE-bound likes of From Russia with Love and Thunderball.  As Franz Oberhauser, Waltz crafts a very still and quietly calculating nemesis. Nothing however quite matches that doom-ladened boardroom entrance as Oberhauser drops the name “James” into the minutes with foreboding precision. In sockless slip-ons, humdrum slacks and a Nehru suit jacket he refuses to properly button up, Oberhauser emerges almost as an aloof Jeremy Corbyn at a seaside conference. Possibly disadvantaged with constant references to previous Bond villains, Oberhauser may also ultimately emerge as somewhat of a lesser force. He certainly upholds Dr. No’s skills at picking the right dress size for his visiting Bond women, Rosa Klebb’s ability to sour a hotel room for guests and Helga Brandt’s penchant for torture (the Craig era does love to strap its lead to a chair). Obviously the elephant in Spectre’s room is 007’s most famous adversary. But if anything this film is about the children of Spectre – the next generation of flame keepers. And flame throwers. It is a sinister beat when Bond and Swann are in separate rooms at Oberhauser’s Moroccan base and are unnerved to see framed photos on the walls of their childhoods.

The lurking white cat that is Mr White has been sauntering under the radar for three Bond movies now. The Austrian scenes between Jesper Christensen’s White and Bond are one of Spectre’s triumphs. Once again Christensen drags with him a Jacob Marley sense of impending, inescapable doom. But there is now a conscience and a resignation to his fate and actions. Rather than wholly using the Hannes Oberhauser strand of Ian Fleming’s 1966 short story collection Octopussy & The Living Daylights as expected, it is Mr White who is afforded writers John Logan, Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and Jez Butterworth nod to the source material. Instead of Octopussy’s father in the 1983 film being provided with an honourable alternative to court martialling and an shameful death, it is now Mr White in a scene that comes back to haunt Bond in quite a marked, devilish way.

SPECTREThere is of course more Fleming DNA weaved throughout this Bond bullet. An unused Fleming title is finally put to good use, Fleming’s great nephew Tam Williams plays an all-important, but faceless lover and a torture scene lifts directly from Kingsley Amis’s 1968 continuation Bond novel, Colonel Sun.

And talking of Mr White (and taking one of Roger Moore’s Bond Women tropes of the 1980s), Spectre has a lot of Daddy issues. Lea Seydoux’s ele-quaint turn as a White Swann of haunted memories, divorced parents, a hatred of weaponry is oddly affective alongside her striking love for Commander Bond. And Franz himself is clearly blaming his father and his relationships for his life choices. But the one figure who is refreshingly free of such familial angst is James Bond himself. The much touted back story of the Oberhausers and a teenage James are almost superfluous to Spectre. This then leaves Craig’s 007 to utterly enjoy the Bond ride in the first of his four films (to date) which is just a fun mission.

One of the successes of Spectre is how it reinstates – and earns – that Bond swagger. As composer Thomas Newman’s choir and Vatican establishing shots fanfare that Bond Arrives ™ moment, this twenty-fourth 007 bullet is peppered with joyous beats and assertive tangents. This is a Bond film with abundant champagne on ice, an alpine clinic with remote control shutters, a rather useful watch and a real lack of second unit domination. And that unashamed heterosexuality is back. Quite right. Craig’s Bond has not yet bedded a Bond woman who stays with him as the end credits hit. There is even space for not one, but two ‘c’ word gags. That potty mouthed Judi Dench and her Skyfall expletives have a lot to answer for.

Sam Mendes second spin of the dice is less the bespoke, mahogany hued world of Skyfall. The Mexico City scenes have a contemporary immediacy to them whilst conversely the Morocco scenes aboard a vintage train and later in the desert reek of Agatha Christie movies as an anachronistically dressed Bond and Swann await an appointment with death. Cue EON Productions’ Chauffeur Complex (and one close to the heart of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan). Nearly every Bond film features a suited chauffeur. Spectre is no different as an approaching and beautiful Rolls Royce Silver Wraith shimmers out of a desert mirage like a wheeled Omar Shariff and reminds of Kleinman’s title wraiths.

Talking of Lawrence of Arabia, there is a marked nod to David Lean in Spectre. Pursuing the hot and cold motif of Mexico and Morocco versus the freezing climes of Austria, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography has the romantic visual sweep of Doctor Zhivago and that duality of ice and sand. Antique trains thread through the desert, shadows are thrown at Spectre HQ like Ken Adam drapes and aerial shots show Bond and London from the eye of an eagle. Hoytema’s work here underpins one of the most romantic looking of Bond movies. Freddie Young (who shot Zhivago, Lawrence and 1967’s You Only Live Twice) would be proud. The dusty hues of Mexico City are awash with that key marigold Day of the Dead colour, Austria is lent a drab February ski trip grey and Rome is suitably romanticised and Catholicised with candle-light auburns and oranges. One pull focus gem sees a resigned Lucia Sciarra and her last ever nightcap flanked by death only for Bond to turn the tables in one slickly orchestrated beat.

This is not a 007 adventure that feels the need to keep the action plate spinning. Casino Royale was sometimes fearful of its central card game motif so threaded in constant physical peril and stairwell skirmishes. The action beats in Spectre are all pinned to the story. As in Skyfall, the stunts inform the narrative rather than pause it. Gravity is the action motif here – the gravity of Bond sliding down a crumbling Mexican wall onto an abandoned sofa, the gravity of a fiercely realised fist fight aboard an out of control helicopter, the gravity of what goes up must come down, the gravity of a wingless plane chasing a fleet of jeeps down an Austrian mountain on nothing but momentum, the gravity of a playful parachute descent in Rome and the gravity of a last act jump off an exploding building.

From Pale Kings to pain authors, Spectre is a breathless triumph that breathes, thrills, romances and glows with a sinister, retro pride. It is Mendes’ Kubrickian opera of baroque quirks, wit and deliberately strange imagery.

Many thanks to EON Productions for the screening.

Spectre is released nationwide in the UK on Monday 26th October and 6th November in the US.

Catching Bullets joins THE TIMES & it’s BEST BOND EVER experts poll

TIMES Bond Poll - 15-10-15Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan author Mark O’Connell joins a formidable SPECTRE boardroom table of Bond experts including David Walliams, Edgar Wright, Raymond Benson, Ajay Chowdhury, Andrew Lycett, Matthew Parker, James Bond Radio, Ben McIntyre, Steve Cole and Alan J Porter to try and compile the definitive list of Bond movies, good and bad.

The Times (October 15th 2015) declares this to be “most comprehensive poll of Bond experts” and has pinned a top movie which is certainly a surprise – as are many of the Top Ten and even the bottom eight.

The pull out supplement is certainly worth a buy of the paper (there is a lot more to it than the list and the reasonings) … but as The Times is only subscription only it seems only fair to at least let fans see how “the experts” voted……

Thanks to Dominic Maxwell and The Times.

The Times - Bond Countdown

“Come in Number One, we were expecting you” – Sam Smith & WRITING’S ON THE WALL make 007 chart history

JUKEBOX

CONGRATULATIONS to Barbara Broccoli, Team EON and the SPECTRE ensemble for making Bond chart history with the Bond series first UK Number One!

Sam Smith’s WRITING’S ON THE WALL has gone straight to the top of the British charts in its first week of release and is set to resound around the globe for Bond, SPECTRE and Smith. The singer has told BBC’s Radio One “out of all the songs I’ve brought out in my life, I was not expecting this to even chart in the top 10, let alone number one. It’s unbelievable.”

Despite some kneejerk panic and reaction, SPECTRE’s opening anthem is a worthy track, a solid one and possibly needs to be seen in the context of the film it flanks. It is certainly carrying on a grand tradition of the top singer of the era stepping up to 007’s mic and giving the series their take on a Bond tune. This will get Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations. Easily.

For a review of the track and what it means for Bond – read here.

And Mark O’Connell writes for OUT magazine about Smith and the Bond song legacy :

Why Sam Smith entering Bond’s Thunderball of fame is good news for 007

 

Breaking Bond’s fall with WRITING’S ON THE WALL – reviewing Sam Smith’s 007 anthem

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SPOILER WARNING. I think.

 

From those mid Sixties strings firing like very familiar harpoon guns into a John Barry-savvy ocean, Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall is clearly ripped from the very genome of 007’s DNA. And it has certainly “divided fans” as media outlets love to say. But maybe middle-aged, blokey Bond fans aren’t quite the Sam Smith demographic. Aside from a trailer or two and a few Range Rover vanity vlogs, this is all the movie-going public can ‘own’ right now of SPECTRE. The bar is always high.

I’m prepared for this,

I never shoot to miss

Did I love Adele’s Skyfall when I first heard it about 30 seconds before going on air to talk about it? Did I instantly warm to Gladys Knight’s Licence To Kill when I heard some 2am snippet on local radio? And did I like or even understand the lyrics of The Living Daylights when I first heard a weirdly mixed b-side version? No to all of them. Bond songs are curious beasts. The best ones charted badly, the disliked ones sold well, they have always been a canny marketing tool dressed in a sequinned ball-gown, unlike champagne they age better than they first taste and they always play differently onscreen than through a phone.

Disclosure

Disclosure

It is seemingly not just the writing that is nowadays on the wall, but everyone and his Twitter bestie’s opinion of what a good Bond and a good song is. Nothing divides reaction more than music (well, maybe Jeremy Corbyn does a little bit). But nothing divides musical reaction more than a Bond song – not when the writing can be fired in 140 characters or less at every media wall going. Because the 53 year old cultural legacy of Bond is so rich, it becomes personal – strapped to all film fans nostalgias and musical tastes. And Bond song opinions are like favourite Bonds – everyone has one, so to speak. But like new 007 actors, Bond songs need time to bed in. Not every dollar-paying punter knows all these songs inside out.

It is a stranger sound for Bond. It is a different sound for Bond. But it is not wrong. It maybe needed a stronger climax, but it needs to be seen alongside Daniel Kleinman’s forthcoming title sequence for the actual SPECTRE film rather than snatched hearings on Spotify. There is a camp tragedy to it all – in part fuelled by Smith’s oeuvre of really martrying those vocals into submission. He certainly gets the drama of the gig. It is definitely a 1am torch song lament (like a lot of the best 007 numbers are). It is worth remembering too that – like Adele’s Skyfall, Madonna’s Die Another Day and Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name – there is now a story context to these songs. They are not just dropped in as a fade-to-titles Bond scrambles in some yacht for his condoms and champagne. In the Craig era these songs are now a narrative and tonal stepping stone for the film themselves. SPECTRE launches with a visceral, ambitious and aggressively mounted action sequence in Mexico City. The quieter melancholy of this track could be an apt and intended breather. There is definitely a context to this song based on what the audiences would have just experienced and the drama at stake. Remember – Sam Smith was asked to read the script. The writing is on the wall in the song, the film, its family of colleagues and all of Whitehall.

Co-written and co-produced by Jimmy Napes, Writing’s On The Wall is certainly a well-produced track. As Adele’s creative partner Paul Epworth proved in 2012, the Bond song project now has its eyes on producers and the ability to put on a production as much as the headlining singers. Whilst the sibling-production duo Disclosure (who co-produced the track) are more about the garage synths and electronica than anything evident in this tune, theirs is very much a crisp effort. The track could have very easily derailed itself with Smith’s octave-spinning vocals and penchant for piling vowel upon vowels (or Mariah-ing as artists less skilled than Smith tend to be guilty of).

If I risk it all, could you break my fall?

It’s certainly different – a [gay] male vocalist “risking it all” with a pained love song that retracts the traditional and bombastic momentum of a Bond song with a quiet falsetto or three (Communard Bond anyone?!). This writer would have loved to hear Smith step aside from the successes of Adele’s Skyfall, really go with that falsetto motif and create that hi-energy disco Bond song Sylvester never recorded. But maybe with Writing’s On The Wall we now have the first Bond song that sees a male soloist take the stance of the trapped bird, the love that cannot say no to our man James. That aching, first-person narrative is very Sam Smith and very Bond.

I’ve spent a lifetime running and I always get away

But for you I’m feeling something that makes me want to stay.

As it seems every self-pronounced diva on Eurovision seems to be channelling a faux John Barry Does Bond vibe (Conchita Wurst and her chuffin’ Vauxhall feathers anyone?!) what Disclosure, Napes and Smith have done here is definitely not faux. It is a very vintage Bond sound – no doubt in tune with that mid Sixties Thunderball template the fourth Craig film has its eye on. This film is called SPECTRE after all. In the wake of Austin Powers’ imitations and pastiches, that old-school, cat stroking villainy needs a classical sound to pin the film to that John Barry heyday when audiences last saw that mob of piranha-owning stalwarts in their prime. But is more David Arnold channelling John Barry than not and maybe indicative of the fact these ain’t your father’s Bond songs anymore. Sam Smith and his colleagues on this one were toddlers when Brosnan stepped into the role.

So as some initial reactions are seemingly giving this fledgling Bond song another kick in the wall, it might be worth noting what Smith himself noted to BBC Radio 1 upon its debut – “it’s a grower this one”. He may well be right.

 

Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall is available now on iTunes.

SPECTRE is released in the UK on October 26th.

PENS MIGHTIER THAN SWORDS – Reviewing BOND BY DESIGN – THE ART OF THE JAMES BOND FILMS

With a growing archive of at least 15,000 illustrations, famed Bond creative hub EON Productions has collated a celebratory [and of course timely] coffee table look at 53 years of 007 design. Written by EON’s Archive Director Meg Simmonds, Bond By Design – The Art of The James Bond Films is a lavish 320 page tome – as much about the unnoticed artisans of cinema as it is James Bond 007’s glorious design legacy.

Straddling the various artistic strands feeding into the onscreen Bond – costumes, sets, graphic design, props, cars and stunts – Bond By Design explores the 007 design palette chronologically from Dr. No through to SPECTRE. As Archive Director at EON Productions, Meg Simmonds not only contributes to countless 007 books, articles, DVDs, auctions and documentaries, she has also helped curate, launch and maintain a triumvirate of Bond exhibitions. Designing Bond (which has just finished a summer run in Madrid), Bond In Motion (now parked up for a successful run in London’s Covent Garden) and the lesser known Exquisitely Evil (at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC) are all must-see branches of this ongoing project to mark and celebrate Bond’s production, sociological and cultural history.

As the lushly reproduced storyboards, charcoal sketches and hand-drawn illustrations evolve into rich marker pen interiors and beautiful water-coloured vistas before making way for the new era’s digital schematics and pre-vis imagery, Bond By Design is as much a document of late 20th century movie entertainment design as it is 007 – an opulent tribute to the lost heroes of movie design. The painted ponderings of costume designer Julie Harris (Live and Let Die) are as rich and relevant as any Cecil Beaton drawing for My Fair Lady. Anthony Mendleson’s costume paintings for 1965’s Thunderball equal any Edith Head etching for those balletic frames and never-ending legs. Donfeld’s watercolour illustrations for Diamonds Are Forever’s Tiffany Case are as luxuriant and era-pinning as any Vogue Paris cover or Robert McGinnis Matt Helm poster from the same time. And check out Barbarella’s Jacques Fonteray and his Moonraker suits and “Breeder” gowns! It is telling too how the ‘house style’ for Quantum of Solace, Royale and Skyfall ‘s digitally produced designs still hark back to that pulp fiction style of paperback cover art.

Of course the creative endowments to Bond and cinema from the likes of designers Ken Adam, Peter Murton, Syd Cain and Peter Lamont go unchallenged. Yet Meg Simmonds and the EON archive go further with Bond By Design. The end result is a rich reserve of those sleek sketches, languid watercolours and the vital scope of ambition EON and Danjaq afford these designers. But, Bond By Design also underlines the furnishing, decorative and architectural savvy these designers had [and continue to have]. The detail and notes Peter Lamont assigns a fairly incidental set and his clear awareness of materials, light, manoeuvrability and tone is as striking as any triangular ceiling of Ken Adam’s. And this is before the internet, online libraries and catalogued furniture archives. It is not enough for these designers to know their production and construction restraints. As this book testifies, they have to be ahead of fashion, erudite with what they know about the history [and future] of interior design and what will let all the global audiences into the story. And that is before you factor in the final challenge that twenty-four Bond films and their design teams increasingly come up against – originality.

“My job is to give them sets to work in that will surprise and amaze an audience”

Peter Lamont

Of course these designers are all sketching for the good of Bond and cinema. But Bond By Design lays bare their own characters. Ken Adam’s thick, dark and angular images for The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldfinger perfectly highlight just how he was indeed “the man who drew the Cold War” (The Daily Telegraph, 2008). Bond By Design sees those filmic and real life influences of his – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Alexander Korda, that Germanistic penchant for precision and cavernous industry and a post-war, Space-Age renaissance of new materials and substances. Likewise, Peter Lamont’s career as a set draughtsman cannot be missed when you witness the mathematical precision he puts into each set, walkway or even doorframe.

“Never a dull moment working on a James Bond film, I can tell you!”

Syd Cain

The devil is naturally in the detail with this collection. It is as much about what we never see as what we do. So costume sketches contain reminders that stunt teams have to wear wet-suits under Lindy Hemming’s red dresses for Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd and notes hint at how Blofeld’s coat of arms from OHMSS must be technically wrong.

 

The what nearly happened clues are nearly as rich as what did make its way up onto the screen. Close scrutiny of the artists notes and thoughts betray that Solitaire might well have worn an afro wig in Harlem in Live and Let Die (with a possible early thought that Diana Ross was in the running for that film?), the scarlet hues and hanging bling of The Man With The Golden Gun’s Bottoms Up Club are now a VIP room norm, that Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever may have had an unused office complex to end all office complexes, that Whyte was first called ‘Graves’, Tomorrow Never Dies’ antagonist was once called Harmsway and that OHMSS’s Syd Cain designed an abandoned dog fight for GoldenEye. Very little is creatively wasted in the Bond franchise.

“What the Bond films did, they stimulated my imagination. I felt the sky was the limit. I could do anything.”

Ken Adam

Bond-by-Design-The-Art-of-the-James-Bond-Films-2It is the staggering specifics that go into these drawings – and ultimately on-screen – that makes Bond By Design such a valuable document for all film lovers, let alone Bond fans. The thought and notes jotted down for a simple flower-covered pillar in a party scene in A View to a Kill or the in-depth measurements Lamont makes for the flower elevations in OHMSS lay bare the commitment to quality first pioneered and bankrolled by the likes of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and now well and truly continued with Barbara Broccoli and the man with the most producer credits on Bond, Michael G Wilson. This is the tireless effort going on behind, in-front and beside the scenes as hardened fans panic about gun-barrel logos infinitum on 007 forums. So much is actually designed for a Bond film beyond physical sets and theatrically-minded interiors. Gold bars, the front of Baron Samedi’s train, Bond’s MI6 logo, casino chips, Martini glasses, what ornaments a villain owns, is it to be a headscarf or a necklace a panicking tourist wears are all elements that viewers will never see and yet have to be factored in, designed, made and duplicated. This writer has always been a tad partial to a good villain’s logo. And those faux-corporate emblems are lovingly presented too including Zorin Industries’ try-out logos.

“I go with my instincts on every aspect of how I design films. It’s all emotional response to things”

Dennis Gassner, production designer on SPECTRE

SPECTRE is understandably not explored in too much depth this time round as a great many of its design and visual tricks are tied to its plot and story surprises. However, designer Dennis Gassner’s discussion of director Sam Mendes’s urge to explore “hot and cold” in the film makes utter sense for a Bond movie as does the use in Mexico City of those prime 007 colours – “red, black and white”.

As if it needs endorsing any more, this new champion of Bond production books also comes with a pair of glossy Ken Adam designs and a foreword contribution from Adam, Lamont and Gassner. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

 

Bond By Design – The Art of the James Bond Films

by Meg Simmonds

Dorling Kindersley

Published 1st October 2015

 

With thanks to Dorling Kindersley and EON Productions.

 

 

Catching TRIGGER MORTIS at its London launch

“It was that moment in the day when the world has had enough”

Trigger Mortis

The race date was Monday September 7th 2015.

The starting grid was London’s Waterstones Piccadilly.

The grandstand was flanked by Ian Fleming Publications, Orion Books, Fleming family and gathered guests proudly watching the newest Bond author take to the driving seat and rev up the engines for the official launch of the newest 007 continuation novel, Trigger Mortis.

“The man was a genius at what he did”

Anthony Horowitz on Ian Fleming

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

Arriving to a packed crowd in a 1950s Bentley, the 60 year old author of The House of Silk, Moriarty and the Alex Ryder series soon arrived at the Film & TV section of Waterstones’ flagship London store with apologies for taking up so much room with his new tome. In true 007 style (well, true 007 launch style), part of the floor has been dedicated to Trigger Mortis : Unlocking Bond – Les Enfants Terrible’s immersive tribute to 007, Fleming, 1950s motor racing, codes, clues, vintage globe-trotting and Bakelite telephones. Heck, even Geoff Love’s flagship Big Bond Movie Themes album was resplendent on the vintage turnstile! And it was here that the BBC’s Mishal Husein (looking pretty sharp herself) talked through Trigger Mortis with Horowitz – examining its genesis, research and thinking.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

“He’s very good at jumping in and out of Bond’s head”

Anthony Horowitz on Fleming

 

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

One of the key phrases Horowitz’s mentioned throughout was his constant need to remind himself to be “selfless” with Trigger Mortis. This is not his series or even his creation to showboat his own creative foibles, fancies and tics. It is a honest and endearing approach and one that has clearly fed into the strong reviews the book is garnering from critics and Bond literature fans alike. Horowitz is adamant he has not rebooted what Fleming has created. He highlights how you “need a good title, a good girl and good villain“. Quite right. He is also highly mindful of the era that surrounds Trigger Mortis. It is no author’s role to change his book’s societal backdrops or the world vision of its protagonist. Horowitz discusses the gay characters in the book but is forever mindful of keeping faithful to a late 1950s context alongside acknowledging too the shifting attitudes of 2015. Again, it is that “selfless” approach.

“With original material by Ian Fleming”

With Fleming himself looking on in the form of Anthony Smith’s bronze bust of the cigarette-clutching writer, the poetry and casting of Anthony Horowitz’s new role as Bond author became most clear. A TV screenwriting veteran himself (having written such TV fare as Robin Of Sherwood, Poirot and Foyle’s War), Horowitz is the perfect choice to write the 007 novel that incorporates Fleming’s own TV treatment work, Murder on Wheels into a new 007 novel. Murder on Wheels was one of nine TV treatments written by Fleming for a television drama that ultimately never manifested. Some went into the published Bond novels, but four remained tantalisingly unused and, hence, unread.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

The always animated Horowitz explains how he was invited by the Fleming family to use some of these unread works – to somehow weave them into his novel as a starting pistol of sorts. Horowitz has of course changed a few details and names from Fleming’s treatment notes. But Murder on Wheels is very much 007’s original creator waving his lap number flag at Trigger Mortis. He may have died 51 years ago but Horowitz is clearly proud to be able to be in this collaboration of sorts with Bond’s creator on this one.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

Horowitz discusses too how he was fortunate enough to visit Germany’s infamously dicey racetrack – the Nurburgring – with racing driver and expert, Mario Franchitti, how an unsuccessful attempt to get noticed for writing a Bond film screenplay ultimately fed into his first Alex Ryder novel (Stormbreaker) and a small matter of a very public apology at the start of the week. Horowitz had caused a mild storm in a teacup (the sort that only gets unnecessarily amplified by social media) by claiming potential Bond actor headline maker Idris Elba was too “street” to play 007 on screen. Having told Horowitz that he did not need to apologise (Elba is as street as Jack O’Connell and Tom Hardy – so the sentiment has no racist overtones to it), he astutely told this writer he felt it was better to nip it all in the bud. Which he did. He also continued to clarify how he had not slated Skyfall and the forthcoming Spectre, but actually said they were just not as brilliant (in his mind) as 2006’s Casino Royale.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

So there we have it. A full house of press, fans and Bond readers new and old were witness to the latest 007 novel firing off the starting grid. They certainly left feeling Trigger Happy as Horowitz did a lap of honour by signing copies of the hardback. 

It is worth noting that the Waterstones edition of Trigger Mortis features the unseen Ian Fleming text for Murder on Wheels and a discussion chapter from Horowitz himself on how he was inspired and spurred on by it.

With thanks to Anthony Horowitz, Mishal Husain, Riot Communications, Waterstones Piccadilly, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, Fergus Fleming, the Fleming family, Ajay Chowdhury, Remmert Van Braam, Brian Smith, Matthew Field and Orion Books.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

 

Trigger Mortis is published now by Orion Books / Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

For more on Anthony Horowitz’s own site click here. For further photographs from the evening check out Mark O’Connell’s Catching Bullets page.

With thanks to Anthony Horowitz, Mishal Husain, Riot Communications, Waterstones Piccadilly, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, Fergus Fleming, the Fleming family, Ajay Chowdhury, Remmert Van Braam, Brian Smith, Matthew Field and Orion Books.

 

OFF THE WALL – Sam Smith is announced as SPECTRE’s title song performer

smith 2The official writing is finally on the wall with the announcement that British singer Sam Smith is performing  Writing’s On The Wall– the title song to the 24th Bond movie, Spectre.

Just like Adele before him, the multi-Grammy award winning British singer is a natural choice, a very current and high-selling choice and do not be surprised if Sam Smith is performing Writing’s On The Wall at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Just sayin’.

However, Smith of course strenuously denied such Bond associations, citing Ellie Goulding in a scent-diverting tactic. Other names were touted too – including the rather delicious prospect of Radiohead getting involved.

But the upshot was it was always Smith’s gig. Co-written very quickly with Smith’s co-writer Jimmy Napes (Stay With Me), the track allegedly took barely twenty minutes to structure with the end result being one of the proudest moments in Sam Smith’s career thus far.

He is the first British male solo artist in fifty years to perform a Bond tune, the first out performer and one of the youngest too.

For my fuller thoughts on Sam Smith’s casting as the Spectre title song artist :

OUT MAGAZINE : Off The Wall – Why Sam Smith entering Bond’s Thunderball of Fame is good news for Bond

BBC 5 LIVE :  Sam Smith ‘obvious choice’ for theme tune says Mark O’Connell

Writing’s On The Wall is available to buy and download from September 25th 2015.

CD and vinyl pre-orders are being taken here

THE GENTLEMAN AVENGER – RIP Bond’s Other Chauffeur

Macnee 1

“Sir Godfrey Tibbett, our department”- A View to a Kill, 1985

The chauffeur trope in a Bond film is a mainstay. From Bond’s Jamaican pick up in Dr. No through to Daniel Craig donning a driver’s cap at the Shanghai airport scene in Skyfall and 007 stunt man Paul Weston playing a chauffeur in the forthcoming SPECTRE, there tends to be at least one nod per film.

Whether it was intentional or not, Patrick Macnee’s character in 1985’s A View to a Kill greatly mirrored the grandfather at the heart of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan – Jimmy O’Connell. So much so that they wore similar uniforms (though Macnee always looked smarter), both Tibbett, Macnee and Jimmy O’Connell shared a love of horses (as did Cubby Broccoli), and of course both drove CUB 1 – that silver blimped beauty of a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II that belonged to Albert R Broccoli and is now a family must for producer Barbara Broccoli. Fortunately Jimmy did not die at the hands of Grace Jones in a car wash, but sadly at the ripe age of 93 Patrick Macnee has indeed gone to that big sound stage in the sky.

Etched on the tree of British cultural history for ever more for his icon-defining repeat turns as John Steed in The Avengers, The New Avengers and (sort of) in the movie The Avengers (1998), Macnee was one of the true dapper gents of cinema. Blessed with one of the most strikingly English yet commanding of voices (which lent themselves so well to Eon/MGM’s ‘Making Of’ specials on the initial wave of Bond DVDs and the opening intro of Battlestar Galactica in which he starred), Macnee also appeared in Olivier’s HAMLET, THE SEA WOLVES and SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK (both starring alongside Sir Roger Moore), THE HOWLING, a cracking turn as music kingpin Sir Denis Eton-Hogg in THIS IS SPINAL TAP (“He’s the head of Polymer”), WAXWORK and THE RETURN FROM THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. He even had a Top Ten hit with a re-release of KINKY BOOTS with AVENGERS co-star Honor Blackman.

For this Bond fan he will be forever that wheezing, slightly comic foil to Roger Moore’s Bond – bringing some veteran panache and grace to a younger man’s genre and at the same time being part of a deceptively brutal death. And don’t pretend any Bond fan doesn’t think of Macnee when the sinister waters start cascading down the windscreen in a car wash.

RIP Sir Godfrey Tibbett.

RIP John Steed.

RIP Patrick Macnee.

SOME KIND OF HERO – New Bond book tells the epic story of ‘The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films’

some kind of heroTwo good fellow bullet catchers are to bring out a great new 007 tome in December 2015.

Some Kind Of Hero – The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films is a new, exhaustive account of the production of the 007 movies and is written by Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Field.

“We have gained a new appreciation of not only how the series was started but how that Rolls-Royce standard has been maintained” – Field & Chowdhury

“For over 50 years, Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions has navigated the ups and downs of the volatile British film industry, enduring both critical wrath and acclaim in equal measure for its now legendary James Bond series. Latterly, this family-run business has been crowned with box office gold and recognized by motion picture academies around the world. However, it has not always been smooth sailing. Changing tax regimes forced 007 to relocate to France and Mexico; changing fashions and politics led to box office disappointments; and changing studio regimes and business disputes all but killed the franchise while the rise of competing action heroes displaced Bond’s place in popular culture. But against all odds the filmmakers continue to wring new life from the series, and 2012’s Skyfall saw both huge critical and commercial success, crowning 007 as the undisputed king of the action genre.”

Some Kind of Hero recounts this remarkable story, from its origins in the early 1960s right through to the present day, and draws on hundreds of unpublished interviews with the cast and crew of this iconic series.

Authors Field and Chowdhury commented: ‘As we delved deeper into the Bond mythos, we realised there were many untold tales from many unsung heroes who played key creative roles in the series. We hope that even the most devoted Bond fans will find fascinating facets to the franchise in these pages. We have gained a new appreciation of not only how the series was started but how that Rolls-Royce standard has been maintained. When SPECTRE is released later this year, we hope readers will gain some insight in yet another chapter in the remarkable story of the James Bond films.’

About the authors :
Matthew Field is a film journalist with CINEMA RETRO magazine and an author, whose books include THE MAKING OF THE ITALIAN JOB and MICHAEL CAINE – YOU’RE A BIG MAN. He was also a consultant on the acclaimed James Bond documentary EVERYTHING OR NOTHING.

Ajay Chowdhury is an attorney and has given legal consultation on motion picture, music, publishing, television, and theatrical projects. He was the associate producer on two feature films and has contributed to numerous books on James Bond including GOLDENEYE – WHERE BOND WAS BORN : IAN FLEMING’S JAMAICA.

Some Kind Of Hero – The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films 
by Matthew Field & Ajay Chowdhury
Published by The History Press
December 5th 2015

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