Obsessive: Who Me?

Here’s a few snapshots of my James Bond paperbacks (there’s a few hardbacks at the end of the row). Believe it or not there are quite a few gaps in the collection, mostly American editions and I am missing a few of the Triad Panther / Granada girls on guns series. These days it’s hard to keep up with all the new releases. About a month ago I was in a book shop and they had three different Bond series for sale. Of course, I am not made of money – so I didn’t buy them. Maybe I will pick them up in second hand shops in a couple of years.


Obsessive: Who Me?

You Only Live Twice (1967)

YOLT002Director: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Donald Pleasance, Karin Dor, Mie Hama, Charles Gray, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell.
Music: John Barry
Title song: performed by Nancy Sinatra
Loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming

After the passing of Ken Wallis last week (on September 1st), I thought it was fitting, and high time, I had a look at You Only Live Twice. Wallis was a leading exponent of Autogyros, and flew Little Nellie in the film.


You Only Live Twice is the fifth film in the James Bond series, and while not the best of the early films, it is one of the most popular. When you mention the James Bond movie series most people think of this film and the final climatic battle inside a volcano. Sean Connery returns as secret agent 007 and is gunned down in bed during the pre-credit sequence. After his resurrection (hence the title) he is sent to Japan to find out who has been stealing spaceships. Throw stunning location photgraphy, ninjas, and a deadly pool of piranha fish, and they all add up to an exotic cocktail.

One of the highlights of the film is that we finally get to see Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of über evil organisation S.P.E.C.T.R.E. After several films of just seeing his hands stroking a white cat, Blofeld’s face is finally revealed. And he looks like Donald Pleasance, albeit with a giant facially scar down the right hand side of his face. For the younger generation who have grown up on Austin Powers, Dr. Evil’s appearance is clearly based on Pleasance and his depiction of Blofeld.

You Only Live Twice - by Ian Fleming

You Only Live Twice is also the Bond series first excursion into outer space science fiction. Ian Fleming’s original novel, there are no hollowed out volcanoes or space ships. Blofeld’s villainous lair was a Castle Of Death. The fanciful screenplay for the movie was written by Roald Dahl, the prominent children’s author – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches and many others. After a suitable castle couldn’t be found, the script was changed to feature a hollowed out volcano.

Two other differences between the book and the film are caused by chronology of the films. The films were not filmed in the order of the books and some of the cliff-hangers from the novels have had to be jettisoned for continuity sake. For example, in the book of You Only Live Twice, Bond is a complete nervous wreck at the start, because his wife was killed at the end on the previous book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But the films were made in reverse order. You Only Live Twice came first, then On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Also the ending has had to be changed, because at the end of the book of You Only Live Twice, Bond has lost his memory and heads to Russia to fit together the pieces of the past. This is only resolved in the opening of the next book,The Man With The Golden Gun. This whole subplot has been jettisoned.

One of the most divisive features of You Only Live Twice is the pull out all stops approach adopted by the film makers. If you like your Bond stories grounded in reality, this is not the film for you. But if you like everything BIGGER and BETTER than what had proceeded it, then you’ll find this to be thoroughly entertaining. One reason for the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach, was possibly a response to the competing rogue production of Casino Royale, starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. EON Productions had to go all out to protect their franchise. Another reason is Thunderball was such a huge, huge success, expectations were high for the next film, and they clearly didn’t want let the audience down.

Now, let’s look at the Bond girls. You Only Live Twice is a festival of flesh for Sean Connery. The first Bond girl he encounters is Tsai Chin, who plays the scheming woman who tries to do away with 007 in the pre-title sequence. During the late sixties, Tsai Chin was a busy actress. Her most prominent role was that in Fu Manchu’s cruel daughter Lin Tang in Harry Alan Towers five film, Fu Manchu series. Then she disappeared from the screen for twenty years only to resurface again in the early nineties. She was worked solidly ever since including a cameo as Madame Wu in 2006 version of Casino Royale. But back to You Only Live Twice – Bond’s next contact and conquest is sprightly Japanese agent, Aki, played by Akiko Wakabayashi. Another Japanese Secret Service agent that Bond gets along well with is Kissy Suzuki played by Mie Hama. As the story progresses, as a cover story, Bond has to take a wife and Kissy is the lucky girl chosen to perform this duty. That brings us to the bad girl. The best Bond films all have a good bad girl (if that makes sense) – and You Only Live Twice has one of the better ones in Helga Brandt, who is played by popular German actress Karin Dor.

While, as I stated earlier, You Only Live Twice may not be one of the strongest Bond films, it is pure eye candy from first frame till last, and many of the gimmicks used in the film would appear in countless imitators. Little Nellie, piloted by Ken Wallis is a great example. You can find another Wallis autogyro in the Eurospy flick, Dick Smart 2.007. Anyway, here’s to Mr. Wallis – who’s work in this film ignited the imagination of many a young boy and girl.

If you haven’t seen You Only Live Twice for a while – or dare I suggest, never seen it at all – maybe now’s the perfect time to revisit it.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Rogue Royale

Rogue RoyaleFor those interested in the history of the James Bond movies, and what may have been, Jeremy Duns (author of the Paul Dark trilogy and Dead Drop) has expanded an article he wrote for The Sunday Telegraph and released it as an eBook.

In the mid-Sixties, the James Bond films became a global phenomenon as the world thrilled to their spectacular action sequences and cool gadgets. But the films nearly went in a very different direction, with a much darker treatment of Ian Fleming’s first novel by Hollywood’s most acclaimed screenwriter. In this short ebook, spy novelist and journalist Jeremy Duns unearths Ben Hecht’s drafts of Casino Royale. Rogue Royale is around 11,000 words long, and builds on a 3,400-word article originally published in The Sunday Telegraph in March 2011.

Rogue Royale is available from Amazon.

Rogue Royale

Skyfall – Pretitle Sequence

Skyfall was released on DVD and Bluray in Australia, just a few weeks ago, and naturally in that time I have had an opportunity to watch it a few times. And I have to say, it is one of the most enjoyable of all Bond films. But films and books are very different things – and the illogical plot points you can get away with in a movie, are just clunky on the written page – or simply do not make sense.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the pre-title sequence of Skyfall. A brief warning, if you have not seen the film, major SPOILERS to follow. You may want to come back, once you’ve watched the movie.

So, the film opens in Istanbul. James Bond (Daniel Craig) enters a building, where a covert operation is taking place. Sensing something is wrong, Bond draws his weapon and upon entering another room, sees a dead man lying in a pool of blood, and a fellow agent, Ronson, on a chair with a severe stomach wound.

At that point, M (Judi Dench), who is in London, but communicating through a earpiece, asks Bond “Is it there?” She is referring to a list of agents, who are working undercover in various terrorist organisations. This list was on a computer. Bond spies the computer, but the hard drive had been removed.

Now, I am going to pause it here.

First, let’s look at this operation. It is clearly a very important operation as both M and her Chief of Staff, Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and linked to the agents in the field. Bond and another operative (who we are introduced to later), Eve (Naomie Harris) are backup for Ronson.

The fact that Bond is backup for Ronson means one of two things. Either, Ronson is a better agent than Bond, or the mission is Ronson’s baby, and he is meeting his contact. Now, Ronson’s mission is either to receive the list of agents, or to share that list with an ally (such as the CIA). Therefore, if he is sharing the list with an ally, then it wouldn’t have to be Ronson at the exchange – since he is, we would assume he is better than Bond. If he was meeting his contact, then he’d be getting the list back, which would imply that it had been stolen (and was already out it the open), which would negate the next half of the film.

So Ronson must be a better agent than Bond, and be sharing the list with an ally.

As Ronson is better than Bond, and the meeting is with an ally, there would be no reason that he wouldn’t be wired up to M, Tanner, Bond and Eve too. Now we have to assume the exchange was interrupted by Patrice (Ola Rapace), who must have burst into the building (without Bond and Eve seeing – and notifying Ronson, that an intruder had just entered the building). Patrice then shot Ronson first – so he is unable to communicate. Then he shot the ally agent, killing him, then removed the hard drive.

As an adjunct, in this day an age, there must be a better way to exchange information like this than a physical meeting between two agents – surely encrypted information can be sent over the internet? However, knowing that the villain of the piece will later be revealed to be a computer genius, negating an internet option, could I suggest that a flash drive, SD card or portable hard drive would still be a more practical (and discreet) way to transport the information.

If Ronson was wired up, then M would want to know why he was not responding. Bond and Eve would hear this too, and perhaps, that is why Bond entered the building. He would have instructed Eve, to watch the other exits.

Bond enters the building, initially without a drawn weapon. That seems strange, but he is Bond, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The scene plays out as described above.

Upon discovery that the hard-drive is missing, Bond is instructed to go after the thief / murderer. It just so happens, that Eve has seen Patrice leave the building but has neglected to tell anyone over the comlink. As Bond leaves the building she pulls over in a four-wheel-drive, in which she has been sitting. He gets in. The pursuit begins.

The car chase culminates with both vehicles, Bond and Eve, and Patrice, crashing. Patrice produces a machine pistol, with an impossibly large magazine and starts spraying lead everywhere. We later find out, that this lead is not actually lead at all, but depleted uranium core. But none-the-less, Patrice shoots up the place, before escaping on a motorcycle.

Bond follows Patrice on another motorcycle. Eve follows in her bullet riddled four-wheel-drive. Both Bond and Patrice end up on the roof of a train, sans bikes. During the ensuing running roof-top battle, Patrice shoots Bond in the right shoulder. The bullet appears to have gone right through, as later, the viewer can see exit wound blood (although no hole) on the back of Bond’s jacket

As an adjunct here, I’d like to quote from Jeffery Deaver’s 2011 James Bond novel, Carte Blanche – Hodder & Stoughton Hardback edition – page 11.

‘Now I’m ninety per cent sure he’ll believe you,’ Bond said. ‘But if not, and he engages, remember that under no circumstances is he to be killed. I need him alive. Aim to wound him in the arm he favours, near the elbow, not the shoulder.’ Despite what one saw in the movies, a shoulder wound was usually as fatal as one to the abdomen or chest.

So Bond is injured, and if we are to take Mr. Deaver’s words on board, quite seriously too. The roof-top chase on the train continues, until both men are squaring off, mano a mano. Eve, has kept up the pursuit in the four-wheel-drive, but has run out of road. She gets out of the vehicle, with what looks like a sniper’s rifle.

The train is crossing a river, and a tunnel looms ahead. If Bond and Patrice go into the tunnel, then Eve can no longer provide any backup. But, she has to ensure that Patrice and the list, do not escape. M instructs her to fire, “Take the bloody shot!”. Eve shoots, and ….

… Bond is hit and falls from the train, down in the the river below.

Title sequence begins.

Now, I am not sure where Eve’s bullet struck Bond. The title sequence, with a stylized stream of blood issuing from Bond’s shoulder would indicate she hit him in the exact same shoulder as Patrice. The scars displayed, later in the movie (set only three months later), would suggest my guess is correct. So, Bond has been shot twice in the same shoulder. Once with a bullet made from a depleted uranium core, and the other from a sniper’s rifle. I know very little about weapons, but I would guess sniper’s rifles are a high-powered weapon. I would also guess that after being hit, Bond would not have any shoulder left to heal – but that is all supposition. I do not intend to test my theory by shooting somebody. However, once again, I would draw your attention to Mr. Deaver’s words above. Mmmm!

But this is Bond, so we figure he can shrug off a couple of potentially fatal bullet wounds.

Let’s look at how the events of the pre-title sequence influence the rest of the story. Firstly, as you’d be aware, Bond is in a self-imposed exile for three months, recuperating from his wounds. Over those months, MI6 do not, and cannot retrieve the stolen list of undercover agents. Later, only when Bond cuts open his shoulder to retrieve shrapnel fragments from Patrice’s bullet – does the story start moving. The depleted uranium core bullets are only used by three people, and Bond recognizes Patrice’s face. Bond is sent to Shanghai – essentially starting the story afresh.

But hang on! Didn’t Patrice fire literally hundreds of these rounds at Bond and Eve. They struck the four-wheel-drive. Surely, someone – even the most lowly policeman – collected one of the bullets and analyzed it. Upon discovery of the unique uranium bullet type, Eve could have recognized Patrice as easily as Bond.

The mission should have been up and running. Patrice should have been picked up, gagged, blindfolded, and shipped to some black rendition site, where he was waterboard tortured until he gave up Silva’s name. Well, at least that’s how I’d run MI6 (I jest, of course).

But, I am sure you get my point. MI6 has ceased to function without Bond. No wonder Gareth Mallory wants M to resign. The whole opening to Skyfall is poorly plotted, and barely makes sense. If I served the same story up in a spy novel, my readers would, after the first chapter, hurl the book at the wall. Then possibly track me down, break my fingers, so I couldn’t tap out such a load of piffle ever again.

But film and novels are very different mediums. As I said at the top, I loved Skyfall, and will gladly watch it again – with a healthy, and much needed, suspension of disbelief.

Skyfall – Pretitle Sequence

From Hong Kong With Love

From Hong Kong With Love (Original Title: Bon Baisers De Hong Kong) is a film I have been trying to track down for years. It is naturally enough, a Bond spoof, and it features Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell (which makes it an interesting curio for Bond fans).

I have never found an English version of it – but on Youtube, there is this French version. I have only watched the first five minutes (I have to hit the road today, and return to Melbourne), but the set up at least, is very easy to follow. Enjoy.

From Hong Kong With Love

OHMSS: Astor Theatre (w/ George Lazenby)

George Lazenby: Astor Theatre, Melbourne Australia (13th October 2012)

On Saturday night, the Astor Theatre, in Melbourne had a rare screening of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sixth James Bond film. As it is one of the few Bond movies that I had never seen on the big screen (I still haven’t seen Diamonds Are Forever), I had to go along. The sealer was that George Lazenby, himself was going to be introducing the film, followed by a Q & A.

The Astor is (and has always been) an amazing venue. It’s a old, art deco single screen movie palace. I remember when I first moved to Melbourne (all those years ago – before movies were available on sell-through), the Astor was the only place you could see many cult and classic films. The venue was crowded – I am guessing around 500 people (maybe more) – without being packed.

George was generous with his time, talking for over an hour, about everything from Bond, to his time working in Hong Kong, and much more – sharing many anecdotes about the mischief he got up to. My one complaint about the evening, and it must be said that George handled himself very professionally, is that somebody decided to bring their terrible two year old kid along. The kid kept jumping up and down on the seat and yelling out. George joked about it, but on a couple of occasions, his train of thought was interrupted.

At one point, as George was interrupted, the crowd actually turned on the family, yelling at them to take the kid outside. But the parents didn’t, steadfastly refusing to leave the auditorium. The kid kept interrupting. As a parent, I love my son more than anything, and yes, I would love for him to experience any ‘once in a lifetime’ event, but really the child was too young to appreciate where he was or who George was. Ultimately it was a rather selfish act on their behalf, and only George’s professionalism stopped it from ruining the night for the five hundred odd patrons who attended the event.

For a person of my age, it’s funny looking back at On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I am too young to have seen it on it’s original release at the movies, and by the time I saw it on television many years later, I was very confused by the negative reaction by the adults around me. I watched the film and wondered what all the fuss was about. Sure, George Lazenby was no Roger Moore – the incumbent Bond at the time – but the film was still highly entertaining. In fact, it was better than that – it was bloody good with some amazing scenes – but still the film seemed to have this stigma attached to it – especially for the older generation who grew up with Sean Connery as their James Bond. As an example of this, recently I watched a repeat of Parkinson, the UK talk show hosted by – who else – Michael Parkinson, and one of his guests was comedian Eddie Izzard. During their conversation, the topic of ‘Bond’ came up and Izzard was asked his favorite film. He said On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Parkinson, who is quite a bit older, was visibly shocked at Izzard’s response and screwed up his nose. It seems that as time has gone by, the younger generation who grew up with a multitude of different Bonds are a lot more willing to embrace On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and see it as simply a part in the Bond series, rather than George Lazenby’s failed attempt to replace Sean Connery in the hearts and minds on Bond fans all around the world.

One of the big differences between On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and some of the preceding Bond films is that it is almost gadget free. Goldfinger had a tricked up Aston Martin, Thunderball had every underwater device imaginable, and You Only Live Twice had an aggressive gyrocopter called ‘Little Nellie’, but this film has ‘radioactive lint’. Q’s grand moment comes early in the film where he presents his new tracking device for ‘double O’ agents, which lines the agent’s pockets. I am sure gadget lovers were disappointed. It’s hardly the kind of exciting espionage gadget we are used to from the highly inventive Quartermaster. Later in the film, Bond uses an elaborate safe cracking and photocopying device. As I mentioned earlier, the first version of this film that I saw was on television, and the version shown happened to be an extended version. Apparently, the original theatrical version didn’t have the safe cracking sequence – so it could be argued that ‘lint’ is all that this film has to offer. These days though, on video, DVD and Blu-ray the film is the extended version, so we get the extra gadget. But however you look at the film, it is still very light on for gadgets.

Among On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s many strengths is the score by John Barry. It is undoubtedly his best score (although Thunderball is pretty hard to beat), and provides pounding excitement for the action scenes and the passion for the romantic scenes. The title tune is unusual as it is an instrumental, but this is countered by the song, ‘We Have All The Time In The World’, performed by Louis Armstrong at a pivotal point in the film.

A frequent supposition among Bond fans is, if On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had Sean Connery it, it would have been one of the greatest films of all time. I like the basis of the argument – that being that Connery was the best Bond, and that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service contained the best Bond story. Combined, they would have been a sure fire winner. But in reality, had Connery made himself available to do On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I doubt we would have got the film that we did. Connery had a very set style, which involved quite a bit of humour and his films featured quite a few gadgets. With Connery in the lead, undoubtedly the formula would have continued and we would have ended up with a very different Bond film, and in my mind at least, I do not feel it would have been as strong.

In all in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and it was great to finally see On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the big screen after all these years.

OHMSS: Astor Theatre (w/ George Lazenby)

Liner Notes: Jason Whiton

Everyone loves movie music, don’t they? That fusion of images and sound can create true cinema magic regardless of genre.

Maybe you’re old school, and love the swelling, bombastic scores of Max Steiner and Wolfgang Maria Korngold – or perhaps you’re a rocker and have King Creole or The Girl Can’t Help It constantly on your turntable. Maybe you love the swinging sixties spy vibe, and have John Barry, Lalo Schifrin, and Hugo Montenegro loaded into you iPod. Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Bruno Nicolai, and Mario Nascimbene have legions of fans with their sophisticated Euro sounds – are you one of them? Does John Williams theme from Jaws still send shivers up your spine?

With a bit of help from a few friends, over the next week or so, I am going to be looking at movie soundtracks – from spy films and beyond. I am going to drag out some of that old vinyl and shine a light on a few of my favourites – and hopefully serve up a few aural gems that you’ve never heard before.

Today I am joined by, Jason Whiton from the sixties spy style website, Spy Vibe, who shares his five favourite soundtracks below.

* * * * *

1. The 10th Victim
There must be some things that one falls in love with because of the timing or the context. I saw this film when I was a little kid, and it immediately became a template for me that defined a kind of height in futuristic, erotic, spy-vibe. The sound of the organ, the women and their orgasmic vocalizations, it was just immensely thrilling to me. It wasn’t until Crippled Dick Hotwax put out their compilations of Italian soundtracks that I realized that the 10th Victim was part of a larger scene. And although I enjoyed hearing more music in that style, I always stayed true to this score. I love the main phrases. I love its avant-garde quality at times. And it captures the aesthetic of the film. I was grateful that I got to contribute to the Blu-ray edition!

2. Planet of the Apes
Goldsmith made some genius decisions to use the primal nature of percussion to define the sound of this score. Again, it has an avant-garde quality that I like a lot. It reminds me of Kontakte by Stockhausen. And the pacing of the sounds, I think, echo beautifully the emotional journey of the story. After loving this for years, I have finally started to explore Dame Evelyn Glennie, a contemporary classical percussionist, who is experimental (and deaf!). Check out her amazing documentary with Fred Frith called Touch the Sound.

3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
By far the best Bond score, in my opinion. Just the theme alone encapsulates the emotions of the story. You have a main theme, representing Bond, that is constantly trying to push forward. And in a call and response structure, you have a variety of phrases and instruments that are constantly challenging him, pushing him to the breaking point. There is even a wonderful use of brass in moments that paint the character with a dash of traditional honor and duty. Listen to the theme again and you will see what I’m talking about. In addition, there are cool electronic sounds introduced in the score, which give it a non-cartoony futuristic vibe.

4. Tohru Takemistu
I’m a huge fan of this Japanese composer. He scored things like Rising Sun and the new wave films by Oshima and Teshigahara. Takemitsu is known for his use of negative space and traditional instruments, and also experimenting with unusual sounds. His scores are often quite haunting and surprising, which is why I like them. Nothing cliche going on there! Also, the minimalistic nature supports the Japanese film within its own tradition of aesthetic principles. Having lived there for many years, it rings truer to me than almost any other style.

5. In Like Flint/Our Man Flint
Although there are many fun spy soundtracks I like, not to mention John Williams and Star Wars, I find myself most often listening to this score. I think that it is for no other reason that I find the main phrase soothing and interesting, and I enjoy how they find so many ways to repeat it throughout. Maybe for that reason, it starts to play like one long piece with separate movements. And like OHMSS, there are fun examples of early electronic sounds. If I was to choose on the concept alone, I would also have to mention the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Doctor Who) as a fascinating time capsule into experimental music made for mainstream narrative work.

It’s hard to leave some out.

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
The soundtrack that defined my twenties. A brilliant score by Ryuichi Sakamoto (YMO), which was also recorded as a single with vocalist David Sylvian (Japan). I discovered this score when I was twenty and probably played it constantly for almost ten years. The main hook is just incredible, and the score progresses with a contrast of two themes to mirror the two pairs in the story. Sakamoto also recorded a rare piano-solo version, which is worth tracking down.

Jason Whiton is the creator of Spy Vibe. Jason composes the soundtracks to his short films, which have been awarded and recognized by Sundance, Park City Film Music Festival, and other major festivals and museums. A life-long musician, Jason recently composed a contest-winning song re-mix for the artist, Yoko Ono. More info at www.jasonwhiton.com.

Liner Notes: Jason Whiton

Liner Notes: Vic Flick

Everyone loves movie music, don’t they? That fusion of images and sound can create true cinema magic regardless of genre.

Maybe you’re old school, and love the swelling, bombastic scores of Max Steiner and Wolfgang Maria Korngold – or perhaps you’re a rocker and have King Creole or The Girl Can’t Help It constantly on your turntable. Maybe you love the swinging sixties spy vibe, and have John Barry, Lalo Schifrin, and Hugo Montenegro loaded into you iPod. Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Bruno Nicolai, and Mario Nascimbene have legions of fans with their sophisticated Euro sounds – are you one of them? Does John Williams theme from Jaws still send shivers up your spine?

With a bit of help from a few friends, over the next week or so, I am going to be looking at movie soundtracks – from spy films and beyond. I am going to drag out some of that old vinyl and shine a light on a few of my favourites – and hopefully serve up a few aural gems that you’ve never heard before.

Today I am digging into the P2K vaults, and re-posting and interview I did with guitarist Vic Flick in May 2009. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Vic Flick. You may not know the name but you have heard his guitar sound on film and television soundtracks and some of the most famous pop songs of all time. Vic plied his trade on ‘I Only Want To Be With You’, by Dusty Springfield, ‘Anyone Who Has A Heart’ by Cilla Black, ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ by The Walker Brothers, and Engelbert Humperdink’s ‘The Last Waltz’, amongst many, many others. Now for most musicians that would be a fine body of work in itself. But Vic has one more claim to fame. He was the man thwacking the strings on John Barry’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. The authorship of the James Bond Theme has always been controversial (and possibly litigious ground to step on), so we’ll leave that alone. But one thing is certain – It was Vic Flick on a Clifford Essex Paragon De Lux guitar that played that famous riff.

In 2008, Vic released his autobiography, ‘Vic Flick: Guitarman’. The book covers everything from his first tentative steps into the music industry, moving through the heady days of the British invasion of the mid to late ’60s, and the belated critical re-assessment of his work in recent years. Today I have the privilege of presenting an interview with Vic, where I ask him a few questions about his book, the work on the Bond series and some of the famous people he has shared studio floor with over the years.

* * * * *

DF: I’m going to jump right out of the gate here and ask you about a section of the book that had me fully engaged and hungry to learn more. In your book you talk about being called into a recording session with Eric Clapton, who was working with composer Michael Kamen on the title track to License To Kill. What happened?

VF: It was a phone call out of the blue. Michael Kamen wanted a dark guitar sound to compliment the melody and extemporization Eric Clapton was going to do on their composition. So, knowing of my penchant for low string guitar playing, he called me for the sessions. It was good to see Eric again after many years and it was wonderful to work with those two gifted musicians. Eric played some amazing guitar on the track and Michael worked out a fine arrangement. I did my thing with a counter theme in the low register. The title turned out very good and the following day we went to a loft in the wharf area of London to shoot the video. What little I saw of the video was great. The video was then submitted to the Bond producers who had commissioned the project. I waited, Michael waited and Eric was off doing his thing somewhere in the world. After two weeks came the news that the Bond producers wanted a song as a theme and commissioned Gladys Knight and the Pips and blew out the track that Michael, Eric and I submitted. I did well out of the sessions financially but would have like everyone to have heard and seen the video. That video is now the Holy Grail of Bond aficionados and he who finds it will see the golden light!!

DF: So, to your knowledge, these recordings and video have never seen the light of day?

VF: Again, no one knows where the video is. The one person who I thought knew, Michael Kamen, has since passed away so the secret has passed with him.

DF: You have worked with quite a few people who are household names – especially for spy fans – names like Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, and the list goes on. You also worked with Shirley Bassey on a few occasions. What are your recollections of Shirley?

VF: Shirley Bassey is an amazing artist. She gives her all when singing, both on stage and in the studio. She can be volatile with mood changes that happen within seconds. If anything goes wrong it will never be our Shirley’s fault – even if she misses an entry. In such a case the sound wasn’t correct or she thought she heard a musical mistake or she hadn’t said she was ready and so on. Everybody would sit with blank faces waiting for Shirley to come back to earth. Musical Directors have suffered at her hands, one of them having a nervous breakdown.

DF: You also worked with Michael Legrand, who did the score for Never Say Never Again. You worked on Yentl, with Barbara Streisand. What were Legrand and Streisand like to work with?

VF: It wasn’t a relationship that was made in Heaven even though both think that’s where they are a gift from. Certainly they are great talents but the person putting them together for Yentl, for instance, took a chance.

DF: I am going to step away from spy film questions for a moment, and ask you about Brian Forbes’ Deadfall, which starred Michael Caine. The concert sequence, which is juxtaposed against a daring robbery, is looked back upon as a piece of bravura filmmaking. You had a hand in putting together that musical composition didn’t you?

VF: John Barry was commissioned to write the score for Deadfall and he did a great job, catching the atmosphere of the film. However, the concerto featured classical guitar played by Renata Tarrago, a renowned classical guitarist. I got a call from John Barry asking me to go to his Villa in Spain where he had set up shop to write the music. He wanted some advice on the guitar part in the concerto. It finished up with me scoring the guitar part for Renata Tarrago to play. I was pleased, and at the same time dismayed, to read a review of the musical score applauding John Barry for his mastery of writing for guitar. That’s Show Business!

DF: You worked on ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’ with Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg – that must have been a steamy recording session?

VF: The actual recording was laying down the track for Jane to sing a few words and make ooohing and aaahing noises – something which she did really well. Jane put her erotic part on at a later date. Jane was in the studio when we put down the track and it was good to see her again after the slightly of key meetings we had when she was married to John Barry

DF: Last year, you released your autobiography, ‘Guitarman’ – a great read by the way – because you have played on so many ‘classic recordings’ was it hard to distill your anecdotes and reminisces down?

VF: It was hard to leave out many anecdotes and I’m still thinking of more that I would have like to have included in the book. Maybe another book in the making! The book relates to such a busy time in the British music scene working on a multitude of recordings with so many artists in all the London studios that when I hear record on the radio or TV and even though I wasn’t on it, it sets up a chain of memories. Some of which I captured, others got away.

DF: One thing I got from the book was a slice of what it was like to be a jobbing musician in the sixties. When we look back at the sixties, sometimes it seems like one giant psychedelic party, but your story seems to be one of hard work – traveling from gig to gig, or studio to studio. How did you avoid the traps that so many other musicians seemed to fall into – booze, drugs etc.?

VF: This is a question I get asked a lot. I only ever tried pot once and it made me sick, Also, with the responsibilities of family and my reputation, I just couldn’t afford to get to a studio ‘out of it.’ Some guys did and were never seen again.

DF: What would you say was the main reason for your longevity in an industry that is notoriously fickle?

VF: Good question, David. I suppose it is a combination of my face fitting, being able to do what was required of me, turning up on time and, up until now, keeping my mouth shut. And not necessarily in that order!

DF: And one final question if I may – this may seem silly to ask the man who played guitar on one of the most famous theme tunes of all time, but are you a Bond man, or a Bourne man?

VF: Definitely a Bond man – and a Connery Bond man.

DF: Oooh. Great answer. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Vic.

From Vic’s website:
Flick’s musical career originated at the tender age of age of fourteen, when he traded his piano lessons for acoustic guitar. Flick’s first major gig in the late 50’s was with an acoustic band that toured with Paul Anka, named the Bob Cort Skiffle Group. On the same tour with Paul Anka of the United Kingdom was the John Barry Seven, led by Oscar winning composer, John Barry. Months later, after a call from Barry, Flick joined the Seven, becoming the lead guitarist by 1958.

Flick became a highly regarded session player, lending his masterful guitar skills to a variety of recordings and instrumental themes. Flick’s first memorable foray into film scoring was his work with composer Barry on the 1960’s cult film, Beat Girl. Some critics regard the score of this film, as the genesis for the Bond’s theme; as the slick title track of Beat Girl is reminiscent of pre-Bond emanations. From this moment, Flick’s contribution to the 60’s music scene was soon to become immense.

Vic Flick: Guitarman is available from: Amazon.com

For more information on Vic Flick and his CD, James Bond Now, visit www.vicflick.com

Liner Notes: Vic Flick

Role of Honour

Author: John Gardner
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Published: 1984

Recently I have been re-reading some of John Gardner’s James Bond novels, and although they have been rather flawed, I have still enjoyed them. That is till now. As a teenager, I remember enjoying Role of Honour, but upon this reading I found it to be extremely convoluted, and the writing style varied from chapter to chapter – only returning to what I would call Gardner’s natural fluent writing style for the climax – which, by that time the damage had been done.

Let’s analyse the mess. Firstly, the basic plot premise is that James Bond has left the secret service under somewhat of a cloud. Of course this is a ruse to draw out some foreign agents who have been recruiting former spies. This story base, is not too dissimilar to that of The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, where Alex Leamas posed as washed up and drunken ex-spy. So while it being derivative, it is still a solid foundation for a spy story, however, Gardner then implements his first layer of plot convolution, and that is to make James Bond a high-level computer programmer. Yeah, yeah!

And this is believed. Bond is introduced to computer mastermind named Jay Autem-Holly, who offers him a position. Now this may be a minor spoiler, but we are talking about a book that has been published for over twenty-five years, so forgive me, but Autem-Holly has been hired by SPECTRE to use his computer skills to implement their latest scheme. And furthermore, SPECTRE is aware that Autem-Holly has employed Bond, and yet they do not object. Surely SPECTRE would have a file on Bond, as he is responsible for the death of the last two leaders of the SPECTRE organisation, and be fully aware that Bond is not a computer programmer.

Okay, the thing is SPECTRE know who Bond is, and need him for another purpose, but that is really a moot point, because even if Bond had left the service under a cloud, he would not willingly work for the organisation that killed his wife. The fact that he does willing work for SPECTRE should have alerted Holly and SPECTRE’s hierachy that he had not in fact left the service, but it was a ruse to discover their plan. It’s a contrived double edged sword. Damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. But that is just clumsy plotting.

In the book there is also a strange passage in the middle where Bond is spirited off to a SPECTRE training camp, called Erehwon, which I am sure you realise is ‘nowhere’ backwards. Actually, I like to think that this training camp is on SPECTRE Island which featured in the film From Russia With Love. I have often thought about SPECTRE Island and wondered if it was ever closed down. In the films, it’s a plot point that is never resolved, and as such I believe it is still operating to this day, training terrorists and other nefarious villains. But I digress. Now, at Erehwon, Bond is put through a training routine, and suddenly the story gets rather violent. What I mean is, more violent than the usual Bond adventure – and in particular the three preceding Bond novels written by John Gardner.

This is just a theory, with no basis beyond the fact that I have been reading a few Mack Bolan novels from the mid 1980s recently – that I believe there was a deliberate attempt to toughen up the Bond stories to compete with the burgeoning popularity of the Bolan stories. Remember, Mack Bolan and The Executioner series were rebooted in 1981, which also happens to be the same year that Gardner’s Licence Renewed hit the book stands. By the mid 1980’s, Mack Bolan had grown to the point where spin off series such as Phoenix Force and Able Team were being launched. Maybe the Bond publishers, or possibly even Gardner himself, saw Bolan and his expanding action adventure universe as a threat, and as such decided to up the ante, by bringing a harder visceral style to the action passages in the Bond stories. I must admit, I’ll be curious to read the action passages in the next Bond novel Nobody Lives Forever and see how they stack up. Maybe this burst of violence was just a brief blip on the radar, or maybe it was the beginning of a conscious move to toughen up Bond.

Role of Honour is definitely not the Bond book to chose to read as an introduction to the work of John Gardner. Admittedly, half way through, the story starts to pull itself together (with many of the plot elements from the first half jettisoned), but most readers wont have the patience to get that far into the story. And even then, a decent second half does not compensate for a poorly plotted and patchily written beginning. This was quite a disappointment. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have fond memories of Gardner’s Bond continuation novels, enjoying almost all of them when i read them as a teenager. The one I didn’t like was Win, Lose or Die – It’ll be curious to see how it stacks up today?

Gary Dobbs at the excellent The Tainted Archive, in his review of Role of Honour has some quotes from John Gardner, where he suggests that it was his weakest book (to that point), and much of this had to do with rewrites to avoid similar scenes in the film Never Say Never Again. Also, it is suggested that Gardner was burnt out after the first three novels, and was scheduled to take a break, but book sales were strong, and Gardner never got his break. Reading the story, this almost makes sense, the book reads very tired at the start, and as I alluded to earlier, many of the hi-tech computer plot points are jettisoned in the second half of the story.

Here’s hoping that Nobody Lives Forever sees a return to form for Gardner.

Role of Honour

Licence to Kill (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: John Glen
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Carey Lowell, Anthony Zerbe, Wayne Newton, Benicio Del Toro, Robert Brown as M, Desmond Llewellyn as Q, Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny
Music: Michael Kamen
Main title song: ‘Licence To Kill’ performed by Gladys Knight
End title song: ‘If I Ask You To’ performed by Patti LaBelle

Licence To Kill is the sixteenth official Bond movie and was the first not to use a title from one of Ian Fleming’s novels or short stories. Originally the movie was going to be called Licence Revoked but the producers, fearing that audiences would not understand what ‘revoked’ meant, changed it to the more familiar Bondian phrase ‘Licence To Kill’.

When this film came out in 1989, Dalton was heralded as a new tougher Bond. The press releases stated that The Living Daylights was written as a fairly generic Bond adventure as they were unsure who would play Bond. But this being the second film for Dalton, the writers could write to Dalton’s acting strengths. Dalton was never good at light throwaway lines. He was at his best when he was snarling and glaring at his opponents. Often the media spin for a Bond film doesn’t quite match up to the finished product – the previous film was promoted as ‘safe sex Bond’, despite the fact that Bond beds more women in the film than Sean Connery did in Diamonds Are Forever. However, generally this film was very good at delivering what it promised — a harder edged Bond. Admittedly there were still some silly sequences –- particularly with some Kenworth trucks towards the end of the film. But Dalton was good. He was hard and looked angry, and acted like a ‘blunt instrument’ for Her Majesty’s Government –- although in this case he was not –- and to understand that, you have to go back to the film’s original title ‘Licence Revoked’. Yes, this is the film in which 007’s licence to kill is rescinded. But I am getting ahead of myself – let’s have a quick look at how the story plays out.

Concept artwork for 'License Revoked' (click for larger image)

The film opens in Key West in the United States. James Bond’s old friend Felix Leiter – once again played by David Hedison (from Live and Let Die — great to see a bit of consistency) – is about to get married. Bond is his best man and they are rushing to the wedding. At that moment international drug baron, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), who the American’s have been trying to catch for years, has flown into US airspace. Sanchez’s mistress, Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) has fled to the Florida Keys with a disgruntled minion of Sanchez. Naturally Sanchez wants her back – hey Talisa is pretty hot! – and follows her. As Leiter and Bond make their way to the church a D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Agency) chopper flies overhead and lands in front of them. Leiter is told about Sanchez’s incursion into the US and he boards the chopper, ready to pursue the Drug Lord. As you expect, Bond refuses to be left out of the action and tags along as an observer.

Bond ends up being more than an observer and ultimately helps Leiter bring Sanchez to justice. Then both Bond and Leiter return to the festivities as planned — that being Leiter’s wedding.

A man as powerful (and as rich) as Sanchez is hard to keep locked away, and after a proposing a huge financial incentive, to anyone willing to help him escape, Sanchez does just that. Before leaving the United States, he first wants to extract a small amount of vengeance upon Leiter. He does this in two parts. First he kills Leiter’s newly-wed wife, Della (Priscilla Barnes). Then he feeds Leiter to the sharks, dangling his legs in a shark pool. Now this is not intended to kill Leiter — just leave him maimed and grieving. Although the film is not particularly graphic in depicting the violence, plotwise it is quite brutal — and may I hasten to add, it is not a sequence dreamed up solely for the film. It is lifted directly from (my favourite Bond novel — which is due a re-read very soon) Live and Let Die. Most Bond fans are well aware that the Bond films and the original novels are quite different, and even though Live And Let Die had been filmed in the early seventies with Roger Moore, the story did not utilise many of the plot points from Ian Fleming’s novel. Which was a shame for the film Live And Let Die, but a plus for Licence To Kill in which screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson could marry some of these plot points with a character from Fleming’s short story The Hildebrand Rarity and then come up with a new film.

John Gardner's novelisation of the film 'Licence to Kill'

As an adjunct here, having veered off onto a minor literary tangent, I will tell you that John Gardner’s novelisation of Licence to Kill was available in Australia several weeks before the film was released. I immediately tracked down a copy and had read it before the preview screenings had even commenced. The thing that struck me though, about the novelisation, was how difficult it must have been for Gardner to be faithful to the film, and also slot into the already established Bondian chronology. So in Garder’s novelisation, following on from Fleming’s novels, he is faced with the problem that Felix Leiter has previously lost his legs to a shark in Live and Let Die. It is certainly a strange co-incidence that different villains should meet out the same punishment to Leiter – and furthermore, why would a villain dangle a man with prosthetic legs over a pool with a shark in it? Yeah, it’s kind of dumb. This is just one of the many plot convolutions that Gardner had to deal with — but all things considered, he muddled through okay.

So in the film, Leiter is maimed, and his new bride has been killed. Bond — who is extremely upset — believes that he owes Leiter a debt, and rather than moving onto his next mission as instructed, he chooses to stay in the Florida keys and investigate.

First he searches the aquariums, fisheries and marine research facilities for a great white shark. His logic being that if Leiter was mauled by a shark, then whoever was responsible must have one. His enquiries are not particularly fruitful until he arrives at Ocean Exotica Warehouse run by Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe). Krest suggests that he is out of the shark hunting business, but a submersible vehicle named ‘Shark Hunter’ would suggest otherwise. Bond, on the surface, accepts Krest’s subterfuge, but decides to pay the warehouse another visit at night.

That evening Bond returns, but he doesn’t find Krest. Instead he finds Killifer collecting his multi-million dollar payoff, for arranging the release of Sanchez. Bond does what any guy whose friend has been fed to a shark would do — and that is feed the man responsible to the shark. He does this, by tossing Killifer’s own money laden suitcase at him, knocking Killifer (and his ill-gotten gain) into the shark pool.

Later Bond is reprimanded for working on his own, and interfering with an American C.I.A. investigation. Furthermore, he had been assigned to a mission in Istanbul, which he had ignored. M, who has flown in personally rescinds Bond’s ‘Licence to Kill’ – or harking back to the film’s original title, has his ‘Licence Revoked’.

Later, Bond breaks into Leiter’s home and retrieves some digital files pertaining to the Sanchez investigation. Bond learns that all Felix’s inside people are dead, except for one operative, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), who Leiter is scheduled to meet at the Barrel Head Bar. Bond makes the appointment in Leiter’s stead, and find that a cadre of Sanchez’s goons are there to not only kill her, but whoever she makes contact with. But Pam Bouvier is a sprightly and resourceful agent in her own right, and with Bond’s help, they escape from the establishment.

After acquiring a large sum of money, courtesy of Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), with the assistance of Pam Bouvier, Bond heads to Isthmus City, posing as a wealthy business man. And once he has attracted Sanchez’s attention, then from within, he intends to bring Sanchez’s whole organisation down – in the usual explosive Bond manner.

One contrivance that slightly irks me with Licence to Kill is that when Bond arrives in Isthmus City to bring down Sanchez, is that Sanchez doesn’t recognise him. Sure it may have been hard to see Bond’s face in the pre-title sequence, where he actively assisted Leiter in the capturing of Sanchez. But Sanchez knew to go after Leiter (where and when too) – no doubt due to Killifer. But yet he appears not to be aware of Bond. Adding to the contrivance, Leiter is taken directly after Bond leaves Leiter’s home. Sanchez is waiting inside, so they would have been watching and waiting. But still nobody fingers Bond – well not until Dario at the end, but that is due to the incident at the Barrelhead Bar. I know this is all vague and nitpicking – but it is a tad sloppy.

Licence to Kill has a whole army of villains and minions for Bond to tangle with over the mission. First and foremost, as already discussed is Franz Sanchez, played by Robert Davi. Sanchez is a different kind of villain for two reasons. Firstly he isn’t a cartoonish megalomaniac. And secondly, although he is in supreme command, he runs his evil empire like a large corporation. He is constantly surround by a financial advisor, Truman-Lodge (Anthony Stark), and his military advisor Heller (Don Stoud).

Then there’s Milton Krest played by Anthony Zerbe.  In Licence to Kill, Zerbe doesn’t get as much screen time as his position in the credits would indicate, but he certainly makes his presence felt, and his demise is truly memorable. I once read an interview (can’t remember where) with Zerbe, where he was asked why he played so many villains. His response was that it had to do with his christian name ‘Anthony’. He said that if his name had been ‘Herb’ or ‘Herby’ (as is Herby Zerbe) then his career most likely would have gone down a different path with comedic roles. I can see it! Over the years Zerbe appeared in The Equalizer, The Return of the Man From UNCLE, at least five episodes of Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West and numerous other productions.

Sanchez’s sergeant at arms is Heller, played by the ever reliable Don Stroud. Frankly Heller is a nothing character (or what is left of him in the script). In is most memorable scene, he has a prong of a forklift truck through his chest.

Sanchez’s number one henchman is Dario is played by Benicio Del Toro (in one of his earliest roles). Del Toro has become such a solid character actor these days, (I love his performance as Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) it is almost strange watching him as a young punk, spouting cliched Henchman dialogue. He’s not bad, but he doesn’t have many lines, and those he does have are rather awkward – “nice honeymooooonnnn!!!!”

Professor Joe Butcher is played by Wayne Newton, with an almost self-mocking grace – which he would take to extremes a year later with his performance as the villain in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (don’t groan!).

Gladys Knight sings Licence to Kill

When looking at a Bond film, one of the hardest things to analyse is the music, after all we all have different musical tastes. Furthermore, with the longevity of Bond series, popular musical styles have changed quite considerably since 1962. For example, a song like Goldfinger (with Shirley Bassey), as great as it is, wasn’t really going to cut it (commercially at least) in 1989. You’ve got to remember, this film was made when Eurobeat music was all the rage (and oh, how I hated it!). The good news is, Licence to Kill doesn’t have a Eurobeat theme song. Instead, Gladys Knight was chosen to sing the opening title song, and it’s not too bad. It doesn’t grab me like some of the classics, like the aforementioned Goldfinger, Thunderball or Diamonds Are Forever, but it is a good song and certainly not one that I cringe at every time I watch the film. In fact, over time, I am probably enjoying it more and more.

The film also had a song for the end title credits, ‘If I Ask You To’ performed by Patti LaBelle. The song is pleasant enough, without being remarkable – and once again, thankfully without any cringe inducing pop stylings of the era. Later the song would become a early hit for Celine Dion when she released it in 1992.

But Licence to Kill has a little musical mystery. In 2009, when I interviewed Vic Flick, he related a tale about a lost recording session, where composer Michael Kamen had invited him and Eric Clapton to perform on an instrumental title track. The music from that session has never seen the light of day. Here’s what Vic said at the time:

It was a phone call out of the blue. Michael Kamen wanted a dark guitar sound to compliment the melody and extemporization Eric Clapton was going to do on their composition. So, knowing of my penchant for low string guitar playing, he called me for the sessions. It was good to see Eric again after many years and it was wonderful to work with those two gifted musicians. Eric played some amazing guitar on the track and Michael worked out a fine arrangement. I did my thing with a counter theme in the low register. The title turned out very good and the following day we went to a loft in the wharf area of London to shoot the video. What little I saw of the video was great. The video was then submitted to the Bond producers who had commissioned the project. I waited, Michael waited and Eric was off doing his thing somewhere in the world. After two weeks came the news that the Bond producers wanted a song as a theme and commissioned Gladys Knight and the Pips and blew out the track that Michael, Eric and I submitted.

You can read my full interview with Vic Flick here, where I ask him about the missing recording session and his career.

Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier

Now just for the kind of double-talkin’ Bondian rhetoric that you would expect to hear from me, I am going to suggest that Licence to Kill is one of the best Bond films — but it is not a ‘classic’. Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are among the best Bond films too, but they also earn the distinction of being ‘classics’ — and this has nothing to do with age. While being very good, Licence to Kill doesn’t make it to ‘classic’ status for two reasons. The first is the girls (sorry!). Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto are possibly the most low-key of all the Bond girls. They are attractive (oh, yes), and their acting is quite okay too, but hey don’t have that key ‘electric’ moment which makes a Bond girl a cultural icon.

Talisa Soto as Lupé Lamora

Next there is the plot. I am not saying that the film is overly plotted, but it is clear to see that the Truman-Lodge (Anthony Starke) and Heller (Don Stround) characters have been severely truncated, which muddies the waters during the climax. How and when did the story become about stinger missiles, rather than cocaine smuggling? If I may head back to John Gardner’s novelisation — for those that want to know what is going on — the book is worth a read. I have already pointed out the book’s shortcomings in relation to the Bond chronology, but as this story progresses, the characters and finale are substantially more fleshed out in the novel than the film — Gardner didn’t have to worry about run-times.

But I do like Licence to Kill. It’s funny after all these years seeing the success and popularity of Daniel Craig as the new tougher Bond — and hey, I like him too — yet, Timothy Dalton did the same thing seventeen years earlier but the public did not want to buy it at the time. I for one, wanted more Timothy Bond, but due to legal problems between EON Productions and the film studio we never got to see it. I was one of those in the silent dark days between 1989 and 1995, who kept saying that I wanted to see Dalton in a black and white version of Casino Royale — I can assure you, I wasn’t alone in this. Well, obviously that never happened. But maybe those fan whispers slowly built in strength and momentum. And maybe, just maybe that is how we ended up with Daniel Craig as a new tougher Bond. I know Quentin Tarrantino (love ya, Quentin) has recently said in the press that some of the credit for the success of Casino Royale should go to him, because the project only came together after he started to talk about it. Well that’s bulldust! Because, as we Bond fans know, we had been talking and imagining the idea from the day after we saw Licence to Kill in the cinemas. Here was a real Bond, doing a story that had a good, healthy dose of Fleming. It was good and we wanted more – and ultimately we got it seventeen years later.

Licence to Kill (1989)