It has been said that whenever you see a Bond film, you certainly get a lot of bang for your bucks, a state of affairs that hasn’t changed since the franchise began in 1962. As special effects have evolved and improved, what can be staged in terms of action has become ever more elaborate and at the same time more convincing, with the inconceivable conceivable and the only limitations being the writers’ imaginations. As the record-breaking box office returns for ‘Skyfall’ prove – it has recently become the most successful film in UK cinema history, outgrossing ‘Avatar’ over a much shorter period – you also get a lot of bucks for your bangs.
The fact that it’s the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series, with all its associated exhibitions, marketing spin-off and advertising hasn’t hurt to keep James Bond firmly in the public eye since he leaped out of a helicopter with the Queen back in July. Among the books that have been published are Taschen’s mammoth ‘The James Bond Archives’, ‘Bond On Set: Filming Skyfall’ by Greg Williams, ‘James Bond 50 Years of Movie Posters’ (both from Dorling Kindersley, or DK Books) and Roger Moore’s own recollections of the series, ‘Bond on Bond’.
Cinema Retro’s ‘Movie Classics Special Edition’ No.4 is devoted exclusively to the first 007 film, ‘Dr No’. CR founders and editors Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall have assembled an amazing array of film stills, memorabilia, interviews and posters to illustrate the making of this epoch-making film. All their regular writers and some special guests have contributed to this issue, which has been a labour of love by the editors. As well as articles by Pfeiffer and Worrall, the 148-page issue is packed with pieces on all aspects of the ‘Dr No’ story, as well as much background information. Matthew Field has conducted world exclusive interviews with Ursula Andress and writer Johanna Harwood. Sir Christopher Frayling interviews set designer Sir Ken Adam, Lee Pfeiffer and Mark Cerulli interview designer Joseph Caroff (the man who designed the 007 gun logo) and Steve Oxenrider interviews Marguerite Le Wars (who played the sexy Jamaican photographer, called Annabel Chung in Fleming’s novel). Lee Pfeiffer interviews legendary artist Mitchell Hooks, who created the artwork for the film poster, Adrian Smith interviews Bettine le Beau (Professor Dent’s secretary) and Steve Oxenrider interviews the Jamaican cast members and entertainers seen in the film. Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Field provide an exclusive interview with Monty Norman, composer of the James Bond Theme. Martijn Mulder looks at Jamaican locations then and now, Gary Giblin looks at the film’s production history and Oscar-winning sound technician Norman Wanstall recalls creating the innovative sound effects for the film. There’s also a foreword by David V. Picker, the man who sealed the deal to bring James Bond to the silver screen at United Artists. I have also contributed an article to this special edition, looking at the (many) changes between Ian Fleming’s novel and the film version.
There are more details about the issues, layout previews and how to order here
By far the heftiest Bond publication of the year is Taschen’s ‘The James Bond Archives’, a massive 600-page fully-illustrated volume that comes in a cardboard ‘suitcase’ with its own handle and a celluloid filmstrip from a print of ‘Dr No’. This wallet-busting, coffee table rupturing tome tells the definitive story of the James Bond films, via access to the actual EON archives, with an attention to detail hitherto unprecedented. It was edited by Paul Duncan and written by a team of writers, including Paul Duncan, Jamie Russell, Danny Graydon, Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc, Ellen Cheshire and myself. All the contributors are writers in their own right – for example, Jamie is the author of the definitive history of zombie cinema, ‘The Book of the Dead’ and this year published a great little book ‘Generation XBox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood’, which charts the sometimes uneasy, always innovative relationship between the gaming and movie industries (http://jamierussell.co.uk/). Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc have written several books, including the excellent ‘Pocket Essential Guide to Vampire Films’, and Ellen Cheshire has also written several PEs, my favourite of which discusses Audrey Hepburn. Film journalist Danny Graydon, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Film Noir’, among other titles, offers an interesting account of working on the book on his blog http://www.dannygraydon.com/
It’s true that it was something of a dream assignment. Paul contacted my in April and I worked on the project through until July. The first chapter I researched and wrote was ‘Live and Let Die’. I had access to draft scripts, the original shooting script, production documentation and letters, and pages of uncut interviews with all those involved in the film, both onscreen and behind the scenes. Most importantly I had the call sheets and progress reports for every day of the film’s production, both on location and in the studio, which tells the story of the film in the minutest detail, with precise dates and those who were involved. This enabled me to fashion an ‘oral history’ of the making of the film, with short shrift given to myth, apocrypha and hearsay. It was a deluge of information that was then edited into a coherent narrative by me and Paul. I went on to write three more chapters for the book: ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’, ‘A View to a Kill’ (so I covered Moore’s first and last appearances as the secret agent) and ‘The World is Not Enough’, which is fortunately my favourite of the Pierce Brosnan-era Bonds. The book has already received many great reviews from all quarters, including Esquire magazine, and seems to have been positively received by Bond fans in this year of celebration. There’s an in-depth interview with Paul Duncan at Mi6 Confidential, where he discusses the project, its genesis and execution, at length
And I think this review also sums up the book well
‘The James Bond Archives’ is available directly from Taschen, where you can see 14 sample spreads, including one from my ‘Live and Let Die’ chapter