007 One by One – Thunderball

Critics and filmmakers may prefer “From Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger,” and many complain about those long underwater sequences but, to a lot of fans, Bond #4 remains the ultimate in spy action, intrigue, gadgets, and girls, girls, girls. It also remains the all-time box office record holder of all the Bonds. It’s also only the second, and so far final, Bond film to ever win an Oscar — for special effects of course.

“Thunderball” (1965)

The Plot

Unperturbed by the 007-related deaths of Dr. No, Red Grant, Rosa Klebb, and countless other operatives, the amalgamated baddies of SPECTRE return with their most diabolical plot yet. The plan this time is nuclear blackmail, as SPECTRE Operative # 2 takes possession of two hydrogen bombs and informs England and the U.S. that they’ll either part with £100 million or kiss one or two of their favorite cities goodbye. Without any viable strategy other than complete capitulation, the only respectable option for the free world seems to be sending Bond to kill, copulate, and skin-dive his way to victory over nuclear terrorism.

The Backstory

With the series chugging along at the rate of roughly one movie a year and a worldwide spy craze underway, an observer might well have expected that the James Bond phenomenon had peaked with the blockbuster success of “Goldfinger.” Then again, a lot of people in 1965 were also figuring that those flash in the pan teen idols, the Beatles, had peaked with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

The EON Production team led by producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman knew that their hot streak was still very much in play. They cannily chose to triple-down with a budget roughly three times higher than the already relatively high ($3 million!) “Goldfinger” budget and all-out marketing and cross-promotional blitz. As luck and skill would have it, the most eagerly anticipated Bond film would ultimately top the box-office success of “Goldfinger” by $20 million with a worldwide take of $141.2 million — not quite enough cash to satisfy a Bond villain, but getting there.

The amazing part is that the film was ever made at all, as the project had been plagued by legal difficulties for years. “Thunderball” began life as a screenplay that James Bond creator Ian Fleming developed with, among others, screenwriter Jack Whittingham and producer Kevin McClory. Fleming eventually tired of the complexities of getting a Bond movie on the screen and abandoned the project. He nevertheless used a great deal of the abortive script’s story in his 1961 novel of “Thunderball.”

Things got complicated when producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman entered the mix. Broccoli and Saltman’s EON team originally initially saw “Thunderball” as the best kick-off for the Bond series, even if its action would have to be scaled back considerably to fit their budget. A lawsuit brought by Kevin McClory nixed the idea, even though writer Richard Maibum had already completed a screenplay.

The suit was eventually settled out of court by an ailing Ian Fleming. With Fleming having passed on and an obvious cash cow of enormous magnitude before him, victorious rights holder McClory agreed to an EON-produced film of “Thunderball” on certain conditions, including that he be the sole credited producer.

With McClory on board, it was time to reassemble the Bond team. Though flush with success, “Goldfinger” director Guy Hamilton pleaded exhaustion. In his stead, original Bond director Terrence Young was induced to return for one final outing, while such key personnel as editor Peter Hunt, director of photography Ted Moore, production designer Ken Adam, stunt man/action choreographer Bob Simmons, and composer John Barry all happily returned. As per the writing MO on the early Bond films, the work of American screenwriter Richard Maibum was given a more English make-over by a Brit, TV scribe John Hopkins. To handle the considerable challenge of filming underwater, EON turned to nature film specialists Ivan Tors Productions, who had achieved great success filming aquatic material for television with their hit shows,”Sea Hunt” and “Flipper.”

As for the stars, while the pressures of true superstardom were starting to weigh on Sean Connery, he was still on board and not yet ready to kill the golden but increasingly painful goose that was Bondage. For his leading lady, EON passed on three actresses soon to become superstars — Raquel Welch, Julie Christie, and Faye Dunaway — before settling on their final choice. More about that below.

The Bond Girls (Rule of 3 + 2)

Bond keeps up his sexual batting average with his usual three trips to home plate in “Thunderball.” Oddly enough, while more than maintaining his rascally ways when it comes to women, he manages what appear to be purely professional relations with two of the film’s five “Bond girls.”

Madame LaPorte (Mitsuoaka): The part was uncredited, and we never find out much about the French operative who assists Bond’s revenge mission against Jacques Bouvar in the opening sequence. Even so, the subtly exotic Madame LaPorte definitely lends an air of intrigue to the opening adventure. The French-Eurasian actress, Mitsuoaka, born Maryse Guy, was a former stripper who seems to have spent a lot of the sixties riding the spy wave around Europe, having already appeared in such early sixties capers as “License to Kill” and “Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary.” She passed on in 1995.

Paula Caplan (Martine Beswick): Bond’s gorgeous “island girl” assistant appears to be an entirely competent MI6 operative. Even though we’ve barely seen them even flirt, Bond is clearly upset when she meets an unpleasant but honorable end under the custody of SPECTRE — though not so upset that he can’t handily boff an attractive enemy operative. Very much a cult star in her own right, this marks either the second or third and final Bond-girl appearance for actress Martine Beswick. She had also played one of the feisty-but-affectionate Gypsy women in “From Russia with Love” and might have appeared as one the dancing silhouetttes in the “Dr. No” credit sequence.

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007 One by One – Dr. No

The girls, the gadgets, the stylish violence and absurd deeds of derring-do… It’s no wonder that the handsome and ruthlessly heroic James Bond has been an icon of masculine wish fulfillment and feminine desire for 50 years. Harry Potter and “Twilight” films might sell more tickets at the moment, but Bond belongs to an elite group of internationally popular, impossible to kill, long-running heroes.

One thing that distinguishes Bond from your Superman, Batman and Sherlock Holmes types is that, with three quirky exceptions, the Bond character has been exclusively handled by the same small, family-owned production company which has maintained a tight creative grip on the franchise since the very first Bond movie. This has led to a remarkable degree of consistency, which can be a mixed blessing.

Keeping things fresh is surely a concern on the upcoming 23rd entry in the series, which was intelligently rebooted with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” but it’s been an issue since the Bond craze first kicked into overdrive with “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” in the mid-sixties. In fact, there’s something enjoyably ritualistic about the Bond films, which repeat the same elements with just enough variation to keep fans returning film after film, even as they might grumble that the series hasn’t been the same since Sean Connery stopped playing Bond. Without the Bond girls, the amazing stunts, the pre-credit sequence and elaborate credits, and especially the theme, Bond just wouldn’t be Bond.

And so, we at Bullz-Eye will be looking at 007 film by film, with a special emphasis on those key ingredients in the Bond martini, both familiar and hopefully somewhat surprising, that have kept so many of us devoted to the series, movie after movie after movie, year after year after year. We’ll start at the beginning…

“Dr. No” (1962)

The Plot

James Bond, an MI6 spy with a “double O” designation which means he is both an investigator and an occasional assassin with a “license to kill,” is sent to investigate the murder of British operative and his secretary in Jamaica. The man behind it turns out to be a Chinese-German millionaire with an unhealthy interest in America’s space program and scores of expendable extras on his payroll. 007 gets his man, kills a few others, and makes a few new female friends.

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They Were Spies: Famous Folks Who Played the Espionage Game

Spy /spī/ noun: A person who secretly collects and reports information about an enemy or competitor.

Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception. – John le Carré, aka David Cornwell

If you should learn one thing from watching the Oscar-touted new film version of John le Carré’s classic of realistic Cold War-era cloak and dagger, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” it’s that people in the espionage business should not be show-offs. If everyone knows you’re a spy, you’re not doing it right.

Nevertheless, documents get released over time, old stories get told, and the end result is that we now know of a surprisingly large number of world-renowned writers, actor, and others who have worked pretty high up, and sometimes rather low down, in the field of intelligence. On the other hand, whether or not some of them were actual spies is a matter of how you define spying. That’s why we like the rather inclusive definition we’ve placed up top. On his website, John le Carré, who worked for several years at England’s MI-6 and whose real name is David Cornwell, at first tells us he was not a spy at all, but then jauntily describes himself as a “spook” four paragraphs later. By any name, spies are cagey.

While a lot of these people were probably mainly bureaucrats, we’d add that the same thing could be said for le Carré’s most famed protagonist. Whether portrayed by Alec Guinness in the 1979 television adaptation or newly embodied for the big screen by Gary Oldman, the seemingly gentle and harmless George Smiley is a man one underestimates at one’s extreme peril.

In any case, some of the notables below were pretty deep in the trenches of the spy game, and some probably even killed people. Some may not really have been involved with intelligence at all, we can’t be sure. That’s one thing about dealing with espionage – it’s like it’s all supposed to be a big secret or something.

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Drink of the Week: The Americano

the AmericanoOf all the boozy discoveries I’ve made in the relatively short time I’ve been writing DOTW, easily the most personally fascinating to me is Campari and the great cocktail made with it, the Negroni. Mine is a lonely passion, however. American bartenders tend to play down Campari and Campari-based drinks, even while they usually stock it. It’s not hard to see why because it’s a dangerous drink, taste wise. It’s essentially the bitterest of bitters mixed with the sweetest of liqueurs. When you drink it straight — and you really should, just once — the sweet part leads the charge followed by a sharp, intoxicating punch of bitterness. Pleasure followed by a punishment I personally find quite addictive.

Fortunately, the Negroni is not alone among Campari-based cocktail classics. This history of the Americano goes back the mid-19th century, when it was first known as the Milano-Torino before the Italians noticed that we Yanks we’re taking to the drink. No doubt, that was because it does such a great job of softening the Campari 1-2 punch.

Wikipedia also points out that the Americano is the first bar order made by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Relax, however; you don’t have to be a super-spy to enjoy this and you certainly don’t need to be a super-mixologist to make it. In fact, it’s a perfect drink for lightweights and/or lazy bartenders with a mild adventurous streak.

The Americano

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Carbonated water
Orange slice or lemon peel (optional, but desirable, garnish)

Pour equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth over ice cubes in a rocks/old fashioned glass. Top off with carbonated water of your choice. Add citrus slice/peel of your choice. Stir.


If you’d like a bit more hydration or if you’d like to put a bit more distance between yourself and the Campari bitters, it’s also perfectly acceptable to make an Americano in a Colllins/highball, leaving more room for the carbonated water. As to the type of soda water, club soda or plain seltzer/carbonated water are fine, though I understand 007/Ian Fleming suggested using Perrier with it in the short story, “A View to a Kill.” On the other hand, since that magnificent snob recommended using the French mineral water as a relatively inexpensive way to improve “a bad drink,” he couldn’t possibly have been talking about the Americano.


Drink of the Week: The Gimlet

gimlet cocktailIt’s the start of another July 4th Weekend, but we are forgiving folk here at Drink of the Week central. In fact, we’ll be big about our little armed disagreement that began in earnest back in 1776 and choose a drink that highlights the U.S./English special relationship. We’ll get into the whys and wherefores in a bit, first the drink itself.

The Gimlet

Two ounces gin
1/2-1 ounce of Rose’s Lime Juice

Pour contents into a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously and as long as you can stand, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Make a toast to English/American friendship and sip at will.

Since Rose’s comes pre-sweetened, there’s no need to add any sweetener. However, if you have a huge sweet tooth, you may demand that you have an older version of the drink — equal parts gin and Rose’s. When we tried it that way, we found it a bit excessive.

Now, usually, drinks made with fresh juices are going to be a lot better, but the gimlet appears to be rare exception. We actually tried it with 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of sugar, but it wasn’t as good as the version with Rose’s.

Now, the history: The source of the name of this very refreshing, very summer-appropriate, cocktail may be one Sir Thomas Gimlette, an English Royal Navy surgeon who eventually rose to the rank of Surgeon General in the early 20th century. It’s possible that part of what got him to that esteemed post was that, back in the later 19th century, he had popularized the anti-scurvy properties of Vitamin C-rich lime juice among his fleet by encouraging the men to mix it with a bit of London gin. Thus, he helped begat the not-so-flattering term “limey” for English sailors and, eventually, English people in general. Of course, the gimlet might also be named after the hand tool used for drilling holes, but we don’t find anything particularly refreshing about that.

Whatever its origins, the gimlet wormed its way into American culture and, perhaps because of the dry, warm weather, found some notable fans in our native metropolis of Los Angeles, a city that many notable limeys Englishman have called home over the years. One famed Angeleno gimlet fan was British-American mystery writer Raymond Chandler, the creator of detective Phillip Marlowe, who mentioned the drink at some length in one of his greatest novels, The Long Goodbye, which is also the widely quoted source of that original 50/50 gin/Rose’s recipe we mentioned above. (If our memory is correct, the drink isn’t featured in Robert Altman’s equally great 1973 movie quasi-adaptation. Nothing is perfect.)

Much, much lower on the artistic scale than anyone we’ve mentioned, Edward D. Wood, Jr. of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” was another gimlet hound. Wood, who drank even more in real life than he did in the Tim Burton-directed biopic starring Johnny Depp, apparently liked gimlets made with vodka so much that his “adult fiction”-writing pen name was Telmig Akdov.

As for variations on the Gimlet, we’ve already mentioned that it can be made with vodka, and we’d argue a rum gimlet might actually be superior to one with gin. One variation we’re not so found of, however, is that tendency to sometimes serve this drink on the rocks. Earlier this week, we tried a high end ($15.00!!!) version made at an ultra-glam Hollywood-area hotel. Despite the inclusion of both Hendrick’s Gin (possibly our favorite) and cucumbers, which always seems to improve cocktails made with that particular brand, it was a disappointment taste wise. We were not asked first if we would prefer it “up” and it was one option we should have been given. One more reason to cherish really good bartenders when you find them.


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