The Death Collectors: Bond Films that Never Were

I been reading the 2019 Dynamite Comic James Bond book.
It interesting in that we do not meet Bond in the book rill the end of the first issue,
Could a Bond Movie work with out Bond showing for the first 15 minutes or so?
That was the premise of the Novel, the spy who loved me. We could get a female 00 or some spinoff material using that idea
That was the premise of the Novel, the spy who loved me. We could get a female 00 or some spinoff material using that idea

Maybe one of the entries in this series will be the Jinx spin off that apparently got well into the planning stages. A description of the script reportedly surfaced earlier this year.
Maybe one of the entries in this series will be the Jinx spin off that apparently got well into the planning stages. A description of the script reportedly surfaced earlier this year.
Of all the Female co stars , the one that was interesting enough that I wanted to see more of her was Camile Montes from Quantum of Solace as played by Olga Kurylenko .
She was the only female character that was more then one dimensional.
She had flaws but was a skill agent with a interesting back story.
Her back story was not fully dealt with in Quantum of Solace and it be interesting to return to see what her life is like with out Bond.
Also she a member of Bolivian intelligence with knowledge of South America .
That a area that has not been covered much in the movies .
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Maybe one of the entries in this series will be the Jinx spin off that apparently got well into the planning stages. A description of the script reportedly surfaced earlier this year.
Of all the Female co stars , the one that was interesting enough that I wanted to see more of her was Camile Montes from Quantum of Solace as played by Olga Kurylenko .
She was the only female character that was more then one dimensional.
She had flaws but was a skill agent with a interesting back story.
She back story was not fully dealt with in Quantum of Solace and it be interesting to return to see what her life is like with out Bond.
Also she a member of Bolivian intelligence with knowledge of South America .
That a areas that has not been covered much in the movies .
Yeah whatever is the POV needs to pack a punch so people can be entertainment before Mr bond enter into the fray, she is a good example, another could be one of the non 00 agents or a rookie agents is collaborating with 007 too
4. Tomorrow Never Lies (1996)
James Purefoy IS James Bond


Whatever you say, Mr. Bond. Just remember: ‘Tomorrow’ never lies.
(Sir Elliot Harmsway, 1996)​

As 1994 dawned to a close, the Broccoli family and EON Productions were facing a number of contradictory dilemmas. On one hand, the future of the Bond franchise – once seemingly so grim – offered clear signs of hope after a much needed comeback. On the other, that very same future appeared to be lacking – perhaps excessively so – a clear direction to follow. Back in 1990, the antics of Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti and his takeover of MGM/UA had placed the franchise on hold shortly after the release of the unsuccessful Licence Revoked (1989), forcing EON into an unexpected hiatus as the company sued Parretti to protect its creative assets. Thus, from a production standpoint, Michael G. Wilson and the Broccolis – Barbara and Albert, the latter of which was preparing his retirement – had faced the equivalent of a torturous purgatory, with little end in sight.

However, the collapse of Parretti’s financial empire, the seizure of MGM by Crédit Lyonnais, and the successful outcome of the EON lawsuits across 1992 had all conspired to get things back on track again. The biggest immediate obstacle for the return of 007 had been the complexity of bringing Timothy Dalton back for a third outing, based on Broccoli’s insistence on a return for two to three additional films and Dalton’s steadfast resolve to return for a single film. Having eventually reached a compromise deal, Dalton had made his eventual return on John Woo’s GoldenEye (1994), a mostly well received return after a five-year hiatus which, despite not meeting EON’s high expectations, had at the same time proved James Bond still had a future, and had been easily the most profitable and successful film of the Dalton era. But with neither Dalton – who had faced a tough, grueling production – nor Broccoli – keen to secure a much desired cinematic triumph – fully satisfied with the results, both men amicably chose to end the partnership.

James Bond lived to fight another day, but a new actor and a new approach was needed, both of which were intimidating challenges to overcome. Casting proved especially difficult as early favorites failed to convince EON and the more desirable, high profile options turned down the role, forcing an exhaustive search that extended itself well into 1995. At only 30 years old, English actor James Purefoy was only marginally older than George Lazenby had been after his surprise casting on OHMSS, and was thus initially seen as too young for the role despite an admittedly strong audition. Furthermore, Purefoy was essentially unknown, having only done stage and minor television work up to then. However, as his competition gradually dropped out or was eliminated, Purefoy reportedly secured the role after impressing an ailing Cubby Broccoli in a second screen test. Shortly after his 31st birthday, Purefoy was announced as the next Bond in June 1995, resulting in a flurry of much needed publicity for EON.

On the storyline front, Dalton’s departure led to the leading outline for Bond 18 – a revenge story set in Japan - being discarded. Instead, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein decided on a plot based around the rapidly approaching British handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. This, it was felt, was both relevant enough and more directly associated with the concept of Britain as a world power than recent plots, even if it opened up the uncomfortable prospect of being, perhaps, a bit too contemporary. Coincidentally, an apocryphal story suggests the producers were concerned enough to approach a number of foreign policy experts to discuss the implications surrounding a handover-based plot, a rumor so outlandish that it suggests Henry Kissinger himself was almost asked for advice at one point. This, while difficult to believe, does hint at EON’s long term desire to avoid political plots that might result in backlash against the finished film.

After being EON’s second option to direct GoldenEye, New Zealander director Martin Campbell was brought in to direct the new project, under the working title “Tomorrow Never Lies”. Additionally, and following an unsuccessful attempt to bring back John Barry, composer David Arnold was brought in to compose the soundtrack. In spite of corporate pressure to choose from a selection of musicians who had submitted a number of alternatives, Arnold prevailed upon MGM to have k.d. lang sing the main theme “Tomorrow Never Lies”, a Shirley Bassey-styled song. Choosing to renew the MI6 cast that had, for the most part, been introduced in GoldenEye, the producers scored a coup by signing up Sir Anthony Hopkins as the film’s main villain, having been unsuccessful to convince him to take on the Augustus Trevelyan role last time around. Despite several changes regarding the eventual Bond girls, Natasha Henstridge and Monica Bellucci were eventually hired to take on the major female roles.

Filming took place across the first half of 1996 in England, Italy and Hong Kong, featuring a rough start for production and a number of challenges – including Hopkins’s mounting dissatisfaction with the script, attempts by MGM to force changes in the storyline, and Purefoy getting acquainted with the role – which were only solved after much work by Campbell and Barbara Broccoli. Sadly, the end of the filming process coincided with Cubby Broccoli’s death of heart failure at age 87, marking the end of an era for the franchise.

Tomorrow Never Lies’s pre-title sequence is set in a terrorist arms bazaar in the Khyber Pass, which is successfully infiltrated by James Bond (James Purefoy) after climbing a dangerous, unstable icefall. Transmitting to MI6 and the Royal Navy, Bond identifies a number of infamous terrorists, including mercenary Stamper (Götz Otto) and nuclear specialist Kim Dae Yung (Calvin Jung). Against M’s (Judi Dench) advice, Admiral Roebuck orders the Royal Navy to fire a cruise missile at the bazaar. Realizing Stamper and Yung are buying uranium, and with the missile unable to be self-destroyed, 007 causes a commotion and, after being unable to prevent both men from fleeing with the material, makes a daring escape in a MIG fighter, narrowly avoiding death. Meanwhile, on the South China Sea, HMS Indomitable leaves Hong Kong carrying several tons of gold as part of the planned evacuation of the island. Taken off course by a satellite, the ship is sunk by an experimental drill called “the worm”, the entire crew massacred in what is made to look like an attack by the Chinese Air Force.

Back in London, Bond learns of the mounting threat of war between China and the UK, with powerful media mogul Sir Elliot Harmsway (Anthony Hopkins) fanning the flames of war via his media empire and his successful newspaper “Tomorrow”. With Stamper having been identified as a potential associate of Harmsway, M orders Bond to investigate the magnate, who is holding a high class party during the Carnival of Venice. Warned that former lover Paris (Monica Bellucci) is now Harmsway’s wife and a potential target for information, Bond attends said party, meeting and briefly flirting with the mysterious Sidney Winch (Natasha Henstridge) before finding and approaching Mrs. Harmsway, who remains resentful over how Bond ended their relationship. Captured and beaten by Stamper due to Elliot Harmsway’s suspicions, Bond escapes and successful disrupts his party, humiliating Harmsway and, after some effort, regaining Paris’s trust. Paris, desperate to leave a loveless marriage, tells Bond that her husband is behind the theft of uranium. After an unsuccessful police raid of Harmsway’s yacht – which is empty -, a frustrated Bond returns to his hotel to find Paris dead in a staged suicide, and narrowly avoids an attempt to be killed as well.

As the tension grows, an angry M orders Bond to suspend the investigation on Harmsway – who has returned to Hong Kong – and focus instead on helping find the Indomitable. Bond flies to the South China Sea and tracks the wreck of the ship, devoid of its cargo and showing signs of entry by the worm drill. While submerged, he once again finds the ambitious Sidney Winch, who, as it turns out, is a protégé of Harmsway and the owner of a marine salvage company. Sidney – who seizes the evidence Bond took from the wreck – fights Bond over her claims of salvage rights, all while the agent tries to persuade her that Harmsway is behind the sinking. Summoned by Harmsway to his Hong Kong HQ, Sidney unwisely reveals what she knows. In a dramatic speech, Harmsway explains how his family built Hong Kong, and states his intention to break into a nuclear power plant, and use the stolen uranium to cause a nuclear meltdown that will turn the city into a barren wasteland. The stolen gold, he adds, will be payment for Britain’s ingratitude towards his family’s work.

Creating a distraction, Bond and Sidney escape the building, resulting a dramatic car chase. Caught again by Stamper, Harmsway takes Sidney to his yacht – from where he will cover the dramatic explosion for his media empire – and orders Yung to place Bond at the exact site of the planned meltdown and plant evidence, which will be used by “Tomorrow” to blame MI6 and bring down the British government. Once Harmsway’s men break into the plant, Bond escapes, overpowers and kills Yung at the last possible moment, averting the nuclear meltdown. Taking Yung’s helicopter, Bond flies to Harmsway’s yacht and crashes into it, creating chaos. Determined to avenge Paris, Bond confronts Harmsway and kills him with his own “worm” drill. Forced to fight Stamper in order to save Sidney – who is being left to drown - Bond only prevails after a brutal fight. As the Royal Navy cycles in, Bond and Sidney share a romantic moment.

Dedicated to the late Cubby Broccoli, Tomorrow Never Lies premiered on December 1996, with only a few months to go until the actual handover. Despite some mild controversy in China and the colony itself, an effective media campaign championing both the film and the start of a new Bond helped TNL to quickly surpass GoldenEye, eventually becoming the most successful Bond film since Moonraker with a staggering box office of over $340 million. Critics were, for the most part, unusually complimentary of the film’s tone, performances – with Purefoy, Bellucci and Hopkins singled out – and action as they considered it a superior follow up to the previous film, while criticizing aspects of the plot and, in spite of a fun performance by Henstridge, finding main heroine Sidney Winch superfluous compared to Bellucci’s Paris Harmsway. That aside, an additional minority did criticize the film as not being fresh or novel enough.

Against such a strong response by audiences – and finding Purefoy to be very charismatic on the role -, EON was ecstatic, securing the box office triumph that had been so elusive and, it was felt, cementing the transition of the franchise from the Cold War to the rapidly approaching 21st Century. Continued changes in management at MGM – with former owner Kirk Kerkorian regaining control – meant pressure to continue to franchise was renewed, allowing Purefoy to gear up for the inevitable sequel, 1998’s Fire and Ice. It was to be a long and initially successful tenure for James Purefoy as the secret agent, which was nonetheless increasingly soured by the onset of fatigue in the early 2000’s and the difficulty in replicating the success of TNL.

Highlights of the film include the arms bazaar sequence, Harmsway’s speech about his plans and his relationship to Hong Kong, Paris’s scenes with Bond, and the seductive banter between Sidney and 007. Perceived as a much needed boost to the franchise, Tomorrow Never Lies is now regarded as one of the best Bond films – perhaps the best since The Spy Who Loved Me -, with Elliot Harmsway heralded as one of the most effective and charismatic Bond villains. The film is also noteworthy for attempting to give some dramatic depth to the complex relationship between Bond, Paris and Harmsway, an attempt which is nonetheless undermined by Paris’s early death in the storyline and her replacement with the more action-oriented Sidney Winch.

Author’s Notes: The plot is based on Feirstein’s original script for TND, somewhat adapted to include a few concepts that were introduced later on the production stage. An earlier GoldenEye – which I think is plausible if Dalton had been signed up early – gives EON more breathing room before Kerkorian starts adding pressure for a quick sequel, ensuring TNL is able both to use a handover-based plot and avoid the absurd process of last minute rewrites of its plot (which in turn makes it possible to enlist Hopkins). K.d. lang’s “Tomorrow Never Lies” is OTL’s “Surrender” (such an epic tune!).​

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Per Fine Ounce? Well, the novel (adapted to remove Bond) was certainly interesting.

Indeed, though I have to confess I didn't use the actual full plot of the Vollmer version.

I would like to clarify that in the next two entries (today and tomorrow) we're going off the rails on purpose, and we'll be looking at the two more outlandish scenarios I could come up with (they're still "plausible", but definetly very unlikely). Updates after that will return to the more likely scenarios.
Per Fine Ounce? Well, the novel (adapted to remove Bond) was certainly interesting.
Never been able to get a copy of "Per Fine Ounce " .

Bond Fans should check out Donald E Westlake's book "Forever and a Death ".
It another script that was considered and then turn into a novel with out Bond.
Never been able to get a copy of "Per Fine Ounce " .

Bond Fans should check out Donald E Westlake's book "Forever and a Death ".
It another script that was considered and then turn into a novel with out Bond.

I have Forever and a Death too, it was reportedly Westlake's pitch for Tomorrow Never Dies.

If you look on Amazon for PFO, it was adapted by Peter Vollmer and published a few years ago.
5. Per Fine Ounce (1973)
John Gavin IS James Bond


Why Per Fine Ounce is actually a white supremacist film
(Reddit thread, 2020)​

The relative box office success of Diamonds Are Forever gave producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman a much needed respite after a very tense period: they had managed to survive the lack of Sean Connery once again, and this time, with an actor actually willing to sign up to several films. The prospect of another Lazenby situation and relieving the fierce and unsuccessful struggle to get him to commit to a sequel had been a source of serious concern, and one that had almost resulted in the return of the man everyone still saw as the James Bond.

Because of this, American actor John Gavin had come perilously close to losing the role, even after being publically announced as the next James Bond in January 1971. Despite having the full support of Broccoli – and not suffering from Saltzman’s general indifference towards his hiring -, United Artists had come very close to vetoing Gavin in order to get Sean Connery back at all costs, only to find their hopes dashed once negotiations broke down and Connery outright refused to have any further contact whatsoever with the producers. The selection of Gavin, while not badly received by the press, had prompted intense speculation about the upcoming film: could an American really succeed in playing the quintessentially British spy? Many doubted it. Still, benefiting from a good budget, Guy Hamilton’s experienced direction, and a witty script by newcomer Tom Mankiewicz, Diamonds Are Forever had proved to be reasonably successful in commercial terms, audiences hadn’t seemed to resent Gavin – although much was made of his somewhat dour demeanor -, and critics had been complimentary towards the lighter tone when compared to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

With the American actor signed up for a three-picture deal, Saltzman and Broccoli started to work on Gavin’s second film right away in late 1971, with a planned release date of Summer 1973. Having previously taken turns leading the successive Bond projects, it was Harry Saltzman’s turn to try and give Gavin what the producers hoped would be his From Russia with Love or his Goldfinger, a film that would successfully establish Gavin in the mind of audiences as a worthy heir to Connery and, perhaps more decisively, turn a greater profit than DAF. Although Live and Let Die had been announced in the previous film’s credits as the next project, a decision by director Guy Hamilton to take a pause from the franchise had also led to Mankiewicz not returning, thus removing the two chief proponents of adapting the by now severely outdated novel. It is generally believed that Mankiewicz’s original pitch for LALD, which was geared towards taking advantage of the “Blaxploitation” genre, was perceived to be too risky and potentially even inflammatory.

Although three other Fleming’s novels remained unfilmed, Saltzman intervened with his own pitch outlining a different road: the Bond continuation novels. In truth, the producer’s financial situation had been growing increasingly desperate, to the point in which it seemed difficult he could hold onto his half of the Bond film rights for very long. Conscious this might be his final shot at the lead of a Bond project, Saltzman decided to make good on a previous promise to have his friend, South African writer Geoffrey Jenkins, to write a Bond film. Jenkins had been previously recommended by Saltzman to Gildrose Publications to serve as the first of the literary Bond continuation authors, and had already published Per Fine Ounce (1967) for Gildrose to good sales in spite of relatively uninspiring reviews. Bringing Jenkins in as the – initial - screenwriter and wanting something different to follow the American-centric Diamonds are Forever, Per Fine Ounce replaced LALD as the next Bond project, with Hamilton’s departure allowing Peter Hunt to return the director’s chair.

Wanting more exotic settings for the film, Broccoli and Saltzman went location scouting during the early half of 1972, ruling out a number of Far East locations to favor attractive settings in Iran and Lebanon. However, the fact that the bulk of the original novel was set in South Africa posed something of a challenge, as, while filming there would provide logistical advantages, it might come at the risk of some controversy due to rising backlash against Apartheid in isolated parts of the film industry. For their part, the Afrikaner government seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of allowing EON to film in the country, and even made very tempting offers of financial and logistical support. In the end, Saltzman chose to allow some parts of Per Fine Ounce to be filmed in South Africa, a decision which would immediately invite criticism in more intellectual corners. In the process of adaptation, the original novel was increasingly altered as a number of elements were dropped or underwent revisions in the subsequent scrips, resulting in Jenkins’s eventual departure in frustration, and his replacement with Bond veteran Richard Maibaum.

Wanting an actor that could provide a more effective foil to Gavin as a menacing antagonist, the producers settled on Christopher Plummer to play the main villain, who was nonetheless rewritten from Jenkins’ original vision of the character into a more apolitical foe for Gavin to battle. Contrary to what a popular – and damaging – rumor would later allege about the production, no evidence has emerged that the Afrikaaner government actually requested that the villain be turned into an African warlord, nor that any such notion would have been entertained in any way by the producers. Although Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell returned once again, a decision was made to drop Desmond Llewellyn (Q) for this particular movie – which, as it turned out, would turn DAF into Llewellyn’s last appearance -, partly due to the desire to reduce Bond’s reliance in gadgetry. Complementing the cast were young actress Pamela Franklin as the main Bond girl, as well as Clive Revill and John Saxon in supporting roles.

Filming took place in late 1972, an unexpectedly grueling experience which rapidly exacerbated the mounting personal tension between Broccoli and Saltzman. On the creative front, differences regarding the tone of the film sparked a contentious internal debate, with director Hunt wanting a more serious spy thriller in the vein of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the producers arguing in favor of more camp, which was felt to be the preferred choice of audiences given the ongoing jokes about Gavin’s “stiffness” as Bond. Filming in Iran proved problematic as well due to issues with the Shah’s security apparatus, which even led to the brief arrest of crew members and a tense incident in Teheran due to a misunderstanding with the SAVAK. But what proved most troublesome was the decision to film in South Africa, which drew criticism not only in parts of the film industry, but from some of the actors and crew as well. Despite assurances that the plot and setting were in no way related to or supportive of the South African government, Saltzman and Broccoli soon came to regret adapting Per Fine Ounce at such an early stage, particularly after rumors coming from the film industry started to paint an exaggerated image of the film.

Per Fine Ounce's pretitle sequence takes place at the French Riviera. After successfully completing a mission against a crime syndicate, James Bond (John Gavin) is targeted by a motorcycle assassin (George Eastman), narrowly surviving a dangerous chase and pushing the assassin off a cliff. Meanwhile, in the skies of Sierra Leone, a convoy of transport planes carrying several tons of gold (the “Gold Flight”) from South Africa to England is attacked and hijacked – through the use of poisonous gas - by sinister and ruthless assassins Koen (Horst Janson) and Rive (Sven-Bertil Taube). Back in England, Bond is summoned to meet with M (Bernard Lee) and Sir Benjamin Palmer (Clive Revill), a high ranking Treasury official. It is revealed to Bond that Britain’s economy would be crippled if the gold was not recovered, and that although evidence points to the Soviet Union (which could cause an enormous international incident) there are some suspicions of an inside job. Tasked with finding the missing gold, Bond is paired with old friend and CIA Agent Felix Leiter (John Saxon) and travels to South Africa, where he successfully uncovers a mole that had fed intelligence to the mysterious hijackers. Meeting the inside man in an isolated place in an attempt to cut a deal, they are ambushed by Koen and Rive, who assassinate the mole before he can talk to Bond.

Fleeing from the assassins, Bond hides inside a hollow baobab tree, eventually gaining the upper hand and killing Koen. Subsequent efforts allow Bond to track Rive into Lebanon, and foil a kidnapping attempt by the surviving assassin against wealthy heiress Nadine Raikes (Pamela Franklin). Nadine, as it turns out, has inherited several gold mines in Africa, in the – fictitious - Republic of Imbaya. This has gained her the enmity of the equally wealthy arms dealer and industrialist Manfred von Praeger (Christopher Plummer), who she suspects of being behind the hit, and whom Bond identifies as the power behind the throne in Imbaya. Suspecting a connection, Bond gains Nadine trust and enlists her help in finding von Praeger, who is currently visiting Iran. Bond meets von Praeger in a hotel in the desert, goading him into a game of baccarat and arousing his suspicions by intensely provoking him. As a tense game of cat and mouse takes place between the two men, von Prager successfully misleads Bond in storming what turns out to be an empty warehouse by von Praeger. Although Bond survives an ambush by Rive, he is unable to stop Nadine from being kidnapped.

Back in London, a furious M chastises Bond for wasting so much time on provoking von Praeger without sufficient evidence. Informed that evidence linking Soviet operatives to the poisonous gas employed in the hijacking has been uncovered, Bond is ordered to pursue that line of investigation. However, still convinced that the poison gas is a diversion and that von Praeger is behind the plot, Bond makes the dramatic decision to disobey orders and – assisted by Leiter - travel to Imbaya, with very little time to spare before the loss of the gold becomes public. Bond successfully tracks von Praeger to a mysterious lake, which – after a number of mysterious deaths – the locals have grown to consider cursed. Sailing and then diving into the lake and destroying its so-called “guardian snake” (a pocket submarine), Bond discovers a large set of underwater caverns, which hold von Praeger’s vast headquarters. Captured and brought to the enemy’s presence, he is reunited with Nadine, who has held hostage to force her to surrender her land rights to the arms dealer.

For his part, von Praeger reveals he is indeed behind the hijacking, planning to set the British and the Soviets against each other – thus mutually weakening their influence – while he uses the treasure to expand his hold over Imbaya, seize control over its neighbors, and become the dominant warlord. Leaving Bond and Nadine under guard, both manage to escape after creating a diversion, with Bond using the base’s systems to alert Leiter. After Nadine mistakenly activates the self-destruct mechanism for the base, Rive tracks them and attacks the couple alongside Dika, von Praeger’s pet hyena. A violent fight ensues, with Bond eventually managing to electrocute the assassin. Confronted by von Praeger, Bond successfully injures him and escapes with Nadine before the base self-destructs, the explosion killing the arms dealer. Later, as Leiter, Palmer and arriving reinforcements from MI6 start retrieving the gold and are interrogated by M as to the whereabouts of the secret agent, Bond and Nadine spend a romantic evening aboard 007’s boat.

After months of attempting to drown the negative press by marketing the film as an engaging spy thriller and by bringing Elton John on board to sing the main theme, Per Fine Ounce opened up in June 1973 to a seemingly lackluster opening weekend, which only slowly started to climb into a more acceptable, if still highly disappointing outcome. Although the film would still make more money than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – and would certainly qualify as successful if it were not a Bond film -, it would not outpace its predecessor, offering a clear sign of trouble for the franchise.

While many speculated on what failed to motivate audiences – with criticism directed at the convoluted plot, Gavin’s alleged lack of charisma, and the uneven tone of the film -, critics were generally dismissive of the whole affair, arguing the series was clearly struggling to find a sense of relevance. However, some aspects were praised, including Plummer and Franklin’s respective performances, Hunt’s action sequences, and Elton John’s “Per Fine Ounce”, which would go on to become a major hit. In any case, the negative experience and the disappointing results of the film had a clear effect in the Saltzman-Broccoli relationship, and pushed both producers into attempting a major course correction for The Spy Who Loved Me (1974), the rushed, unsuccessful and final collaborative effort between both men. Not coincidentally, TSWLM was also to be the final of Gavin’s three appearances as James Bond and, as it turned out, the starting point of an unexpectedly large hiatus in the series.

Retrospectively, the film has continued to receive a negative reaction, judged to be an uninspired, messy entry in a particularly difficult moment for the series. Although some elements have been re-evaluated in a more positive light, including Gavin’s serious performance and the attempt at a more realistic plot after DAF, others have been increasingly evaluated in a more negative and even political sense even early on. Less than a decade after its release, Per Fine Ounce would be banned in Iran during the Revolution for its depiction of Teheran under the Shah, and it would also become something of a symbol for those championing cultural and financial boycotts of the Apartheid regime. Although defenders of the film continue to argue that, in spite of its filming locations, the film lacks the offensive elements regularly attributed to it, others contend the film both makes a mockery of that period's African context via its unstable use of humor, and that the decision to film in South Africa makes the project irredeemable from the start. Highlights of PFO include the tense baobab tree sequence, von Praeger’s initial confrontation with Bond in Iran, Nadine’s rapport with Bond, and Bond’s own conflicted decision to disobey orders from MI6.

Author's Notes: Apparently, the fact that Gildrose refused to publish PFO in the first place led Saltzman and Broccoli to refuse to ever adapt the non-Fleming novels (with Colonel Sun explicitly targeted over this, and the Gardner books presumably suffering from it as well). Here, its publication conspires with Saltzman wanting to fulfill a pledge to Geoffrey Jenkins, resulting in an early and unsuccessful adaptation. Rather than rely on the Vollner novel - as it is hard to know what was meant to be in the original -, I've created a pastiche based on what we know of the original PFO, Bondian elements of the era, and certain names from a subsequent Jenkins novel (A Cleft of Stars) which may have also been based on the unpublished PFO. I got the idea for this reading wwbgdiaslt's "(This Never Happened To) The Other Fella", in which an early 70's PFO is made as a clearly anti-Apartheid film. That, and the controversial association between the British film industry and South Africa (see: The Wild Geese) got me thinking. Clearly EON is never going to make a pro-Apartheid film, but what if - in such a scenario - they'd been less sensitive? Lastly, and as its well known, Gavin only narrowly lost the role at the last moment.
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I have only one question: Does The Living Daylights still have that sweet A-ha theme?

The A-ha theme is indeed magnificent, but no. This version of TLD has a theme by Pet Shop Boys (this almost happened OTL, were it not for a conflict due to their desire to make the entire soundtrack), which essentially sounds - with different lyrics - like this:

6. You Only Live Twice (1990)
Mel Gibson IS James Bond


I would like my family to eventually recover the film rights, yes.”
(An interview with Barbara Broccoli, 1989)​

The James Bond franchise had hit unimaginable heights with the success of Thunderball, both a resounding commercial triumph and yet another achievement in the sheer scale of the Bond films. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Saltzman and Broccoli were determined to go even bigger and bolder in their next adventure, and with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service impossible to film due to the weather in Switzerland, a decision was made to go forward with a loose adaptation of You Only Live Twice. As a result, both producers and a large team had flown to Japan to scout for locations, and were due to fly to Hong Kong on March 5th, 1966 for a similar task pertaining the pre-title sequence. A persistent urban legend argues that Saltzman and Broccoli almost postponed their return flight to watch a ninja demonstration, but this has remained unconfirmed. Some twenty-five minutes after takeoff from Haneda airport, BOAC Flight 911 disintegrated mid-air as the result of severe turbulence, with the loss of all 124 passengers and crew.

Amidst the grief, the badly shaken EON Productions suddenly had to contend not only with the irreplaceable loss of both leading producers, but also director Lewis Gilbert, cinematographer Freddie Young, and perhaps crucially, designer Ken Adam, whose work on sets had proved to be so iconic in three of the four previous Bond films. Unsurprisingly given the crippling blow to its creative and production teams, the franchise immediately went into crisis mode and YOLT was shelved, with the collective loss of life judged as too harsh and too damaging to warrant resuming or even reviving the project at a later date. Shortly after, a renewed dispute for the film rights – made worse by the looming start of production on rival film Casino Royale – would provide a source of well documented personal and legal drama. The final result is well known: the Bond films would eventually survive the loss of their iconic initial producers much like they had survived Fleming’s death, and Connery – once the issue of the rights was finally settled - would go on to give well received performances and box office hits in his final two appearances as 007.

However, the franchise was briefly suspended after Connery’s first replacement went down in flames amidst a disastrous performance and a public relations nightmare, and was only unsuccessfully re-started in the late 70’s and early 80’s with three Bonds in four movies. Although Your Only Live Twice had been brought up a number of times as an option for a new adaptation due the rapidly shrinking list of un-filmed Fleming novels or titles, it soon became an unofficial taboo subject due to the resistance of production veterans from the Saltzman-Broccoli era, many of which believed the novel to be forever linked to the tragedy of Flight 911. It was only after the film rights changed hands yet again and with the unexpected, smashing success of Live and Let Die (1988) that the franchise finally gave the impression of being back on track, aided by Fox’s willingness to make a serious investment on the films and by an actor who, at least from what the box office suggested, seemed to have the potential for long term stardom.

It was perhaps inevitable that, having struck box office gold – in spite of repeated jokes about the main lead’s short height – producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver were determined to up the ante and make an even bolder gamble, in the hopes of matching the scale and success of the first four Bond films. With little material from Fleming left to adapt and after some debate with 20th Century Fox, the confident duo decided it was time to break the curse and move forward with You Only Live Twice. This was also influenced both by fears that the rapidly developing situation within the Soviet Union could make the movie appear outdated if the wrong plot was chosen, as well as Silver’s willingness to dispense with the late Broccoli and Saltzman’s belief in less political plots. With the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Japanese economy and the mounting tensions between both Korean dictatorships, a Far East-based story seemed to be substantially move relevant, even if the narrative context of Fleming’s novel was not. In this, the producers willingly followed the lead of other films of the decade, many of which imagined Japan as a future and imminent world power.

Right from the announcement of the title at a press conference in early 1989 – in which a proud Silver defiantly pronounced: “Bond is here to stay” - the movie had to deal with a public relations battle with Broccoli heirs Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who had lost the film rights in the bidding war that preceded Mel Gibson’s tenure as Bond. Wilson and Broccoli took to the press to denounce the title reveal as “in bad taste” in light of the crash of Flight 911, an argument that Silver in particular took great pains to attempt to refute. That two of the six former or current Bonds also criticized the concept of the film also hurt its perception, with local Hollywood gossip arguing only Sean Connery’s silence prevented the issue from gaining more notoriety and becoming truly damaging. Despite the misgivings some of Silver’s public responses created, the producer had acquired enough clout with the revival of the film franchise to ride out an internal storm at Fox, preventing corporate fears from pushing a different project forward.

Despite the remainder of the literary “Blofeld trilogy” having been already filmed under Sean Connery and Julian Glover, the decision to reintroduce Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Live and Let Die as a secondary antagonist – motivated by a lack of faith on the novel’s actual villains - allowed for the return of the character and for him to take center stage as the main Bond villain this time, even if the potential for a recast remained open until very late in the project. Although a couple of scripts from the aborted 1966 attempt were available to Gordon and Silver, both proposed adaptations greatly differed from the novel, and were ultimately rejected as a starting point. Instead, Silver asked screenwriter (and certified Bond fan) Steven de Souza to preserve a substantial part of the novel for the eventual script, with de Souza becoming increasingly enthusiastic with the prospect of a “darker” story portraying a James Bond all out for vengeance. Ruling out the prospect of killing off the Felix Leiter character (vetoed by Gordon, and seen as lacking weight given the ongoing tradition of re-casting Leiter), Silver and Gordon eventually agreed on having Bond marry the previous Bond girl and have her suffer the fate of the Tracy Bond literary character, giving the movie the necessary emotional weight to pull off a credible revenge story.

Bringing back Richard Donner to the director’s chair and filming on location in England, Hong Kong – posing as Macau – and Japan during late 1989, the producers shelved an initial attempt to cast veteran Japanese actors due to issues with the script, leading to a more American-centric cast. The desire for continuity with the previous film was enhanced by Alan Rickman’s last minute decision to reprise his “breakout” Blofeld role for a second and final time, in spite of a public lack of interest on further sequels and private creative differences with Silver dating back to Live and Let Die; as well as Alison Doody returning for a brief cameo as Solitaire (for which she was reported to have been paid the same amount she had received for LALD). Michael Kamen would be another production member to return to provide the film’s music, the main theme “You Only Live Twice” being performed by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler.

You Only Live Twice starts with the longest pre-title sequence at that point on the franchise, with James Bond (Mel Gibson) retiring from MI6 to marry Solitaire (Alison Doody) shortly after the events of Live and Let Die and the apparent collapse of SPECTRE. However, their honeymoon is brutally cut short by the reappearance of SPECTRE chairman Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Alan Rickman) and his new aide Irma Bunt (Barbara Carrera), who try to assassinate the couple. Despite Bond’s rapid reaction, Solitaire is shot and dies in Bond’s arms. After what is implied to be a few months of an unsuccessful hunt for Blofeld, a heartbroken and unraveling Bond – back as an MI6 agent - is forcefully reassigned by M (Michael Gough) into a different mission, in the hopes – as M privately confides to his chief of staff – that it will allow Bond to focus before his career fully disintegrates: fellow agent 004 has been assassinated in Macau while investigating Yukio Shimamura (James Shigeta), the head of a powerful Zaibatsu conglomerate.

Arriving in Macau, Bond and station chief Dikko Henderson (Steve Bisley) trace 004’s last steps and follow Shimamura to a lavish casino, where Bond confronts and pressures the businessman. Leaving the casino, Henderson is murdered in an ambush by a Yakuza assassin (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), with Bond narrowly surviving. Finding that Shimamura has disappeared, Bond follows the trail of the assassin all the way to Tokyo, chasing him into a bathhouse, and killing after extracting information on Shimamura’s operation. Shortly after, Bond is captured by Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki (Tamlyn Tomita) and brought into the presence of Tiger Tanaka (James Hong), the head of the Japanese secret service. Unwilling to abandon his mission, Bond reaches an understanding with Tanaka to receive information on Shimamura in return for spying on the mysterious Dr. Shatterhand, a foreigner whose “Garden of Death” – within an imposing island castle - is said to be home to a dangerous cult, and proves to be an embarrassing problem for Tanaka’s superiors. Bond soon realizes Shimamura is associated with Shatterhand, whom he then identifies as none other than Blofeld. Obsessed with the prospect of avenging his wife, Bond trains with Kissy, learns about Japan with Tanaka, and prepares to infiltrate the castle, all while keeping Shatterhand’s identity to himself.

Bond successfully infiltrates the horrifying Garden of Death and overcomes countless perils, discovering the latest iteration of SPECTRE has come to resemble a death cult. Captured by Bunt and brought into Blofeld’s presence – clad in Samurai armor -, Bond learns his nemesis intends to destroy Tokyo and the Japanese government with a missile and assist Shimamura in taking over the rising world power. Denouncing Blofeld as insane, Bond creates a distraction and is able to call for help, resulting in Tanaka, Kissy and other agents storming the Garden of Death and killing Shimamura before he is able to escape. After successfully destroying the missile before it can detonate, the subsequent struggle results in Bond killing Bunt and then engaging Blofeld in a sword fight, which ends with the death of the SPECTRE leader. Bond and his Japanese allies abandon the castle shortly before it explodes. After saying farewell to Kissy and while visiting Solitaire’s grave, Bond is approached by M, who inquires whether he is ready and able to return to duty. Bond replies affirmatively, noting that – in a reference to a previous conversation with Tiger Tanaka – he is now ready for his second life.

The film premiered on May 1990, being heavily advertised as an intense, action-packed story of personal revenge, something uncommon for the franchise. Having expected an unqualified triumph, Silver and Gordon – and Fox by extension – were disappointed to receive a more muted reaction in their second Bond outing. In spite of decent viewership numbers, it soon became clear You Only Live Twice would fall far behind Live and Let Die in the box office, with critics (and seemingly audiences too) split on whether the movie was just too dark and too violent for a Bond film, against those who argued the franchise needed to cover new ground. On the whole, praise was directed towards Gibson, Rickman and Hong for their respective performances, as well as to Donner’s direction, the music and the dialogue. On the other hand, the intense debate about the tone of the film was coupled with criticism of its plot and setting, particularly the Japanese angle, which was controversial on the islands and let to an attempted boycott of the film.

Now having two outings as Bond – a feat not achieved since Glover - and with only one more film left to fulfill his original contract, Gibson made it clear to Silver that he wanted his career to branch out more, not intending to be Bond “forever”. The failure to secure another LALD-like success also led to additional drama behind the scenes, as Fox started to insist on a much lighter tone for the third Gibson film, all while an increasing number of executives stepped up their plotting against the production duo. Retrospectively, the movie has gained newfound popularity in recent years as an attempt to innovate within a formulaic franchise, even if the execution – and some of the performances – continue to be debated or even criticized. Some contend the film does qualify as more straightforward adaptation of a Fleming novel than most previous films, particularly compared to the following Fleming-based titles.

Retrospectively, You Only Live Twice has been revaluated in recent years and seen as one of the better Bond films, particularly due to its exploration of far darker themes than usual, and with Gibson’s tortured – even suicidal - performance being cited as a high point of his tenure. Additionally, YOLT is seen by some as one of the most “prescient” Bond films, with many observers comparing the SPECTRE-cult and the Garden of Death with the death cult Aum Shinrikyo, which would become infamous across the world in the next few years. On the whole, highlights of the film include Bond’s wedding and Solitaire’s death, 007’s near suicidal demeanor, powerful monologues by Blofeld and Tanaka, and the chilling Garden of Death sequences.

Author’s Notes: Allegedly, Joel Silver wanted to buy the Bond rights in the early 1990’s so he could star Mel Gibson – whom Cubby Broccoli did not want on the role – as 007. Thus, this was originally going to be the more realistic “Mel Gibson’s Colonel Sun”. However, I’ve always been fascinated with the prospect of a more accurate adaptation of YOLT, and when I read about Flight 911 (true story, the key players at EON almost died) I realized this was an interesting opportunity to combine both scenarios. A lot can happen in twenty years, so if you look carefully you’ll see an extra butterfly or two.​

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The A-ha theme is indeed magnificent, but no. This version of TLD has a theme by Pet Shop Boys (this almost happened OTL, were it not for a conflict due to their desire to make the entire soundtrack), which essentially sounds - with different lyrics - like this:

Ah, that's a shame. Guess a-ha will have to settle for being multi-platinum artists with ten albums and thirty-eight singles. Rough times for a-ha ITTL.