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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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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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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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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Fathom (1967): Raquel Welch has fun as a female spy

10 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (2):

  • Titles by Maurice Binder (Bond title sequence designer, various 1962 – 1989).
  • Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr (Writer, Never Say Never Again, 1983).

Two years after her near miss at playing Bond girl Domino in Thunderball (1965), American actress Raquel Welch (above) starred as the eponymous hero in Fathom which is essentially a James Bond-style action-adventure movie. Based on Larry Forrester’s unpublished sequel to his spy novel A Girl called Fathom, it seems likely 20th Century Fox hoped to create a female-led alternative Bond series. Another Bond imitator, Modesty Blaise (1966), is also an influence. Both films share scores by The Avengers composer John Dankworth, with each featuring an angelic choir melody for the female hero. However, while Modesty Blaise retains greater cultural significance, Fathom is the more accessible and entertaining film.

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Crossplot (1969): Roger Moore advertising for Bond

6 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (2):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond, 1973 – 1985) as hero Gary Fenn. 
  • Featuring Bernard Lee (M, 1962 – 1979) as villain Chilmore.

Crossplot is a lightweight, but fun, “wrong man” thriller starring a pre-Bond Roger Moore. Produced immediately after Moore’s long stint as crime fighter Simon Templar in the classic British TV series The Saint, the film was clearly an attempt to launch his career as a movie star whilst keeping his Bond ambitions afloat following a near miss with the role in 1968 (in an aborted version of The Man with the Golden Gun). Indeed, Gary Fenn, a London-based advertising executive who finds himself unwittingly involved in a spy plot, shares Bond’s love of luxury and beautiful women. The film also includes a pre-credits sequence followed by psychedelic titles overlayed with a (rather warbly) theme song. However, unlike 007, Fenn has no obvious military background and story-wise Crossplot is a throwback to pre-Bond spy thrillers where spies are the villains. Whilst its (by then) old-fashioned plot may have limited its box office appeal in 1969, the film offers Bond fans the chance to see Roger Moore effectively adjust his professional adventurer star persona to play a civilian with no track record of outwitting villains.

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The Liquidator (1965): Case before Bond

28 MAY 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (2):

  • Starring Jill St John (Bond girl Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever) as British Intelligence secretary Iris MacIntosh.
  • Legendary singer Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker) performs the theme song.

Produced at the height of the 007-inspired 1960s spy movie boom (“Bondmania”), The Liquidator is a solid attempt by 20th Century Fox at creating a rival to James Bond. As with several Bond imitations released in the 1960s, The Liquidator plays as a light spoof of the (then) new series. Australian-born leading man Rod Taylor stars as down-on-his-luck Boysie Oakes (above, left), hired by Trevor Howard’s jaded spy chief Colonel Mostyn (above, right) to assassinate numerous double agents who have infiltrated British Intelligence. Following an incident at the end of the Second World War (detailed in the black and white pre-credits sequence), Mostyn has mistaken Oakes as a Bond-style sharp shooting hero. In fact, Oakes is a selfish coward who, as well as being useless at his new job, is soon tricked by the villains into enabling their scheme.

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