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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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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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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Kaleidoscope (1966): stealing the plot of Casino Royale

13 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (2):

  • Maurice Binder (Title designer, various 1962 – 1989) produced the title sequence.
  • Featuring Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent in Dr No) as a London casino manager.

The highly enjoyable 1966 comedy thriller Kaleidoscope begins as a romantic caper from the mould of Charade (1963), with added swinging 60s style and fashions. The James Bond connection isn’t immediately obvious, as the film follows an American playboy enacting an ingenious scheme to fraudulently win a fortune from casinos across Europe. Maurice Binder’s fun title sequence, featuring iconic London sights shot through a kaleidoscopic filter (below), is unlike any of his work for EON. Actor Anthony Dawson, so memorable as the slimy Professor Dent in Dr No, barely registers in his tiny (and uncredited) role as a casino boss. However, the second half of the film, focusing on an attempt to bankrupt an international villain during a high-stakes poker game, is clearly lifted from Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (1953) and features a similar aftermath. Ironically, this section of Robert and Jane-Howard Carrington’s lively script is far closer to Fleming than the first “adaptation” released the following year!

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