The Saint – ‘The Queen’s Ransom’ (1966): Roger Moore bonding with royalty

15 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (3):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond, 1973 – 1985) as hero Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint.
  • Featuring George Pastell (train conductor in From Russia with Love) as King Fallouda.
  • Featuring Peter Madden (Kronsteen’s chess opponent in From Russia with Love) as chief villain Farid.

In the 1960s, Saint producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman were the small screen equivalent of the James Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Both partnerships converted a long-running series of novels into internationally successful on-screen adventures, transforming the careers of their leading men in the process. Ahead of the Bond producer’s own split, in 1965 Baker and Berman would dissolve their producing partnership. However, unlike Broccoli and Saltzman in 1975, their’s was an amicable split and Berman would go off to produce several classic 1960s action-adventure series including The Baron (1965 – 66) and The Champions (1968 – 68). Baker found a new partner in Roger Moore and together they produced the remaining two (colour) series under their joint production banner BAMORE. Whereas EON arguably lost Sean Connery by refusing to allow him greater creative involvement, Baker ensured the continued success of his show by teaming up with his leading man.

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The Saint – ‘The Saint plays with Fire’ (1963): introducing Roger Moore’s greatest non-Bond role

8 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (5):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond 1973 – 1985) as Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint.
  • Featuring Joseph Furst (Professor Doctor Metz in Diamonds Are Forever) as chief villain Kane Luker.
  • Featuring Robert Brown (M, 1983 – 1989) as Howard Jackman.
  • Featuring Joe Robinson (Peter Franks in Diamonds Are Forever) as henchman Austin.
  • Featuring John Hollis (uncredited as ‘Blofeld’ in For Your Eyes Only) as henchman West.

Veteran English producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman achieved international success with their classic action-adventure television series The Saint (1962-69), an adaptation of author Leslie Charteris’ long-running series of novels and short stories following the adventures of smooth crime fighting playboy Simon Templar. Baker and Berman were essentially a small screen version of James Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, making similar successful creative choices. Just as Sean Connery would be the vital element differentiating Dr No (1962) from the 1954 U.S TV play, ‘Casino Royale’, Baker and Berman’s series eclipsed several lacklustre 1940s American-made Saint B-movies by casting the skilled and charismatic Roger Moore as the dynamic lead character. Though Templar was a freelance crime fighter / adventurer in contrast to the state employed Bond, the characters share obvious parallels, and few can have been surprised by Moore’s eventual casting as Connery’s successor in 1973.

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The Ipcress File (1965): hypnotic working-class Bond

1 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: *****

James Bond Connections (6):

  • Producer Harry Saltzman (Bond Producer, 1962 – 1975).
  • Featuring actor Guy Doleman (Count Lippe in Thunderball) as Colonel Ross.
  • Production designer Ken Adam (Bond production designer, various, 1962 – 1979).
  • Composer John Barry (Bond composer, various, 1962 – 1987).
  • Editor Peter Hunt (Bond Editor / Director, 1962 – 1969).
  • Sound design Norman Wanstall (Sound designer, Goldfinger).

In October 1962, the same month Dr No was released in cinemas, English artist-turned author Len Deighton saw the publication of his debut thriller The IPCRESS File, an instant bestseller leading to a series following the adventures of a working-class English spy. Ironically, given Deighton’s creation provided a gritty tonic to the increasingly fantastical James Bond series, this and two further Deighton’s novels were brought to the screen from 1965 onwards by Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman (with IPCRESS losing its capitalisation along the way). Indeed, one of the reasons The Ipcress File remains such a terrific spy thriller is the presence of so many EON regulars involved in the production, including John Barry who provides one of his greatest-ever soundtracks. Additional interest for any James Bond fan is that despite being ostensibly an anti-Bond film with a focus on spy procedure, The Ipcress File includes themes found in Bond and other spy fantasy films of the 1960s such as brainwashing and mind control.

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Some Girls Do (1969): Bulldog Bond’s last stand

28 AUGUST 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (5):

  • Starring James Villiers (Bill Tanner in For Your Eyes Only) as main villain Carl Peterson.
  • Featuring Daliah Lavi (The Detainer in Casino Royale [1967]) as Baroness Helga.
  • Featuring Virginia North (Olympe in OHMSS) as one of Peterson’s guards.
  • Featuring Joanna Lumley (Angel of Death in OHMSS) as one of Peterson’s women.
  • Lyrics by Don Black (James Bond, various, 1964 – 1989).

Some Girls Do was the third and final 1960s spy movie starring Shakespearian leading man Richard Johnson, the darkly handsome actor who was a leading contender for Bond in 1962. A sequel to Deadlier than the Male (1967), Johnson again plays an updated version of H.C McNeile’s long running hero ‘Bulldog Drummond’. Whilst the filmmakers behind Deadlier than the Male clearly modelled their update of Sapper’s hero on Sean Connery’s Bond, the earlier film maintained its own individuality by casting Drummond as an insurance investigator – rather than an operative of British intelligence – and adding some family peril. However, in Some Girls Do Drummond’s profession is barely referenced by the clunky script and the character is portrayed as just another Bond-style spy. But with plenty of action, amusing characters, and a great soundtrack (Bond lyricist Don Black pens the catchy theme tune), Some Girls Do is a lot of campy fun. For James Bond fans, the film presents a final chance to see an actor who nearly was 007 star in an espionage movie.

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The High Bright Sun (1965): colonial spy thriller with Dirk Bogarde

21 AUGUST 2023

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (4):

  • Featuring Joseph Furst (Professor Doctor Metz in Diamonds Are Forever) as Dr Andros.
  • Featuring George Pastell (Train conductor in From Russia with Love) as Prinos.
  • Featuring Paul Stassino (Palazzi in Thunderball) as Alkis.
  • Production Designer Syd Cain (From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service & Live and Let Die).

Set in British ruled Cyprus in 1957, the UK produced colonial spy thriller The High Bright Sun follows Dirk Bogarde as Major McGuire, an English intelligence official wooing Susan Strasbourg’s American heroine Juno Kozani in the hope she will aid him in his fight against Greek rebels. Aside from numerous James Bond connections in the cast and crew credits, the film remains highly relevant for 007 fans due to its end of empire setting. Ian Fleming’s anxieties regarding the loss of the British empire feature strongly in his novels, reaching a crescendo with You Only Live Twice (1964). Indeed, the very creation of his famous secret agent can be viewed as a reaction to the UK’s loss of status in the real world, with espionage depicted as a way to reassert influence. Whilst Dr No (1962) shows the British operating in a relatively peaceful colony (ironically in the same year Jamaica gained independence), The High Bright Sun provides Bond fans with the chance to see British intelligence operating during a far more complicated end to British colonial rule.

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Deadlier than the Male (1967): Bulldog Bond

24 JULY 2023

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (5):

  • Featuring Lawrence Naismith (Donald Munger in Diamonds Are Forever) as Sir John Bedlow.
  • Featuring Milton Sandor (henchmen in Dr No, Casino Royale [1967] and The Spy Who Loved Me) as henchman Chang.
  • Featuring Virginia North (Olympe, an Angel of Death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) as Brenda.
  • Featuring George Pastell (train conductor in From Russia with Love) as Carloggio.
  • Featuring the voice of Nikki van der Zyl (Bond girl dubbing artist, various, 1962 – 1979) as the voice of Penelope.

An update of English writer H.G ‘Sapper’ McNeile’s long-running hero Bulldog Drummond for the post-Bond jet age, the highly entertaining comedy thriller Deadlier than the Male is the most well-known of three late 1960s spy movies starring the darkly handsome Shakespearian actor Richard Johnson*, who famously turned down the chance to play the first James Bond in Dr No (1962). The popular Drummond thrillers – following the action-packed adventures of a patriotic war veteran defending Britain from sinister foreign villains – dated back to the 1920s and were an acknowledged influence on Ian Fleming when he began writing the Bond novels in the 1950s. In adapting the series for the post-James Bond world, the film shows the heavy influence of the EON franchise. Additionally, the film offers 007 fans the chance to see an actor who very nearly was James Bond in a film very close in style and content to the 1960s 007 movies.

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Modesty Blaise (1966): a female Bond misfire?

17 JULY 2023

JBC rating: **

James Bond Connections (1):

  • Featuring actor Michael Chow (Spectre 4 in You Only Live Twice) as Modesty’s manservant Weng.

The 1966 spy movie Modesty Blaise, an adaptation of Peter O’Donnell’s popular British cartoon strip, was an attempt by 20th Century Fox to create a female-led rival to the EON James Bond franchise. O’Donnell’s Modesty was a former international criminal who, with her platonic partner in crime cockney Londoner Willie Garvin, finds occasional employment with British Intelligence, for whose M-like superior Sir Gerald Tarrant they perform special assignments. Given the 007-flavour of the comic strip, it was inevitable Peter O’Donnell’s creation would be filmed following the James Bond fuelled mid-1960s spy mania. Indeed, there is considerable overlap between both worlds, especially in Modesty’s conception. In his reference work Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2017), crime author and historian Mike Ripley explains how Modesty emerged in 1963 as a potential replacement to the popular Daily Express 007 strip after the latter was abruptly cancelled by newspaper owner Lord Beaverbrook, incensed by Ian Fleming’s decision to sell his new 007 short story ‘The Living Daylights’ to rival newspaper the Sunday Times. The Modesty Blaise strip eventually found publication in the then London Evening Standard and quickly grew in popularity.

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Charade (1963): Cary Grant’s Bond movie?

10 JULY 2023

JBC rating: *****

James Bond Connections (1):

  • Title sequence designed by Maurice Binder (Bond titles, various, 1962 – 1989).

Director Stanley Donen’s superb comedy thriller Charade is frequently (and justly) referred to as the greatest suspense film Alfred Hitchcock never made. Less discussed, Charade also displays key influences from the then new James Bond franchise, and not just Maurice Binder’s Dr No-style title sequence featuring familiar flashing colours (below). Most intriguingly, the film stars screen legend Cary Grant, famously United Artists preferred choice as James Bond in 1962 (and Cubby Broccoli’s best man during his 1959 wedding). Grant plays a government agent who, in a departure from his usual civilian roles, carries (and fires) a gun during his mission to protect Audrey Hepburn’s wealthy jet-setter Regina ‘Reggie’ Lampert as she’s pursued across Europe by a rogue’s gallery of villains.

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Hot Enough for June (1964): from Hitchcock to Bond

3 JULY 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (3):

  • Featuring Richard Vernon (Smithers in Goldfinger) as British embassy official Roddingham.
  • Featuring Eric Pohlman (voice of Blofeld in From Russia with Love and Thunderball) as Galushka.
  • Production Designer Syd Cain (From Russia with LoveOn Her Majesty’s Secret ServiceLive and Let Die).

The UK-produced 1964 comedy spy thriller Hot Enough for June stars English matinee idol Dirk Bogarde as Nicholas Whistler, a penniless writer tricked into travelling to Communist Czechoslovakia on a secret mission for British intelligence. This light and entertaining film can be seen as representative of a genre transitioning from one largely inspired by the wrong man-style thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock to one dominated by the influence of the EON screen adaptation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Indeed, Lukas Heller’s adaptation of Lionel Davidson’s acclaimed 1960 novel The Night of Wencelas is at least partly in the tradition of the pre-Bond formula established by the master of suspense whereby even the Western spies are at best deceitful. However, from the opening – where Nicholas is hired to replace a murdered agent whose file is marked ‘007’ – director Ralph Thomas fills the screen with James Bond-inspired touches.

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Topkapi (1964): 007 connected heist movie

26 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: *****

James Bond Connections (1):

  • Assistant Director Tom Pevsner (Bond Associate / Executive Producer, various 1981 – 1995).

There are James Bond influences galore in the superb 1964 comedy thriller Topkapi, a highly successful adaptation of Eric Ambler’s excellent novel The Light of Day (1961). Both novel and film follow a criminal gang plotting to steal a fabulous emerald encrusted dagger from the eponymous museum in Istanbul. As Andrew Lycett details in his 1995 biography Ian Fleming, English thriller writer Eric Ambler was both a friend and a key influence for the author, most notably in his novel From Russia with Love (1956). Ironically, in Topkapi the Bond influence comes full circle as French director Jules Dassin’s classic film exhibits numerous elements clearly inspired by the then new EON franchise. In a further twist, the film would prove a huge cultural influence in the wider spy genre itself, not least the Topkapi-inspired Mission: Impossible television series and its later cinematic incarnation.

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