Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on December 13, 2012
As I was getting ready to wrap-up my year long celebration of ‘60s spy films, I received something extraordinary in the mail; the new special issue of Cinema Retro’s Movie Classics magazine celebrating “50 years of James Bond in Cinema.” The issue boasts a spectacular cover image of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress taken in 1962 to help promote the first Bond film, DR. NO. The image literally jumped off the page and into my heart reminding me of how magnetic the two actors were in those iconic roles. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more memorable screen couple from 1962 but at the time that the photo was taken Connery and Andress were relatively unknown. DR. NO would catapult them both into cinema history and eventually make James Bond one of the most recognized film characters in the world.
Today it’s hard for modern audiences to fathom the impact that DR. NO had. The film was made for just one million dollars but its unique visual style and pop art sensibility made it seem light years ahead of its time. It took audiences to exotic locations while introducing them to a handsome, well-dressed international man of mystery who could easily outwit and outmuscle fiendish villains hell-bent on world domination. Sean Connery’s James Bond may have dressed like a million bucks but his roguish manner and rumbling Scottish accent hinted at his working class roots and that gave him universal appeal. He was exactly what film audiences needed to combat the Cold War jitters and help usher in the swinging sixties.
Ursula Andress and the rest of the original Bond girls (including Eunice Gayson and Marguerite Le Wars) held their own kind of appeal. At a time when most women were expected to be in the kitchen and nursing babies, the Bond girls were a breath of fresh air. They were dangerous and sexually aggressive. They committed crimes, gambled, drove fast cars, flew planes, knew how to shoot a gun and often outwitted their male counterparts. While it’s true that James Bond always came out on top, he was often caught off guard by these femme fatales who gave as good as they got. Say what you will about the misogynistic nature of the Bond franchise, but in 1962 DR. NO was one of the few antidotes to a culture addicted to television programs like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and THE DONNA REED SHOW, which regularly showcased women as good mothers and dutiful housewives without one dirty thought in their pretty little heads.
The latest issue of Cinema Retro sets out to explore what made DR. NO such an important cultural and cinematic milestone. It’s jam packed with rarely seen production stills, promo photos and candid shots of the cast and crew taken on and off the set. It also contains carefully researched articles and stories that detail every aspect of the production. Everyone who worked on the film is profiled, including author Ian Fleming, director Terence Young, producers Albert R. Broccoli & Albert Saltzman as well as costume designers, stuntmen and extras. Even the deadly spider that almost killed James Bond gets his own spotlight. Cinema Retro has literally left no stone unturned in their applause worthy attempt to celebrate DR. NO. I particularly appreciate the number of interviews and quotes they were able to compile in this 147-page issue. Some of the highlights include an interview with actress Ursula Andress who rarely talks to journalists anymore and chats with the Bond theme composer, Monty Norman and production designer Ken Adam. One of the most fascinating interviews is with screenwriter Johanna Harwood (wife of French film director René Clément) who talks about her appreciation for Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale, which led her to pen her own James Bond story long before she was hired to work on DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Harwood details many of the hurdles she faced while working on the script for DR. NO and the interview is a welcome reminder that the James Bond franchise owes its auspicious start to many creative men and women who were eager to bring a new kind of action hero to the screen.
Many fictional characters including Sherlock Holmes, Superman and Dracula have lived long and prosperous lives in front of the camera. But as Cinema Retro’s Editor-In-Chief Lee Pfeiffer points out in his thoughtful editorial, James Bond has the prestigious honor of being the longest consistently running film franchise in history with a fanbase that’s continually growing with each passing year. This is partially due to the pioneering Broccoli family, who have nurtured the series from the start and continue to helm the Bond franchise under the supervision of producer Barbara Broccoli. But the yearlong celebration of James Bond’s 50th anniversary is really a testament to the enduring appeal of 007 and the ability of the franchise to change, for better or worse, with the times. DR. NO spawned countless imitators but Bond’s legacy will never be surpassed.
If you’re a James Bond enthusiast or just interested in how one of the most influential films in history got made, consider picking up a copy of this latest Cinema Retro special. Cinema Retro is one of the few publications that dedicates itself to classic and cult films from the ‘60s and ‘70s and I appreciate their devotion to a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. This full-color quarterly magazine regularly features some of my favorite writing on genre films that have often been overlooked by critics. Besides offering entertainment value, Cinema Retro is also an essential resource for anyone who is seriously interested in film history. As a journalist I frequently find myself returning to past issues when I want more information about a particular movie they’ve covered. Their exhaustive research into the making of DR. NO is a genuine treat for Bond fans and a treasure for film historians.
This wraps up my yearlong salute to James Bond and ’60s spy films. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to write about half the movies I had planned on discussing so I may return to the topic in a month or two to share some more thoughts about my favorite celluloid spies. In the meantime you can purchase copies of Cinema Retro’s DR. NO special at better book stores or order it directly from their website. At $15.95 the price might seem a little steep but this beautifully designed publication is well worth the investment.
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