Bond Directors: Licence to List

Bond Directors: Licence to List

best bond directors

#Bond_age_ Licence to List: James Bond Directors

For this newest Licence to List, #Bond_age_ HQ has compiled and ranked a list of the best Bond directors. As always, we’ve used highly specific and wholly arbitrary methods for ranking. We each have our favorite films and our favorite directors and our favorite films filmed by our favorite directors. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I was saying this is highly scientific.

If you have a suggestion for a future List, send us a suggestion and we’ll tackle it next on Licence to List.


1. Terence Young

terence young best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball

Highest Rank: Greg, Jay (1)

Lowest Rank: Krissy (2)

Without Terence Young, James Bond might not have been James Bond. Young groomed Connery and molded the future of the franchise. Lois Maxwell said of Young: “Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat.” While Young boasts a prolific directorial resume, only a select few of his films come close to his achievement and success with Bond. He’s the best Bond director. His influence on the entire series cannot be understated.

Most notable non-Bond movie: Wait Until Dark (1967)

 

2. Martin Campbell

martin campbell best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: GoldenEyeCasino Royale

Highest Rank: Jay (2)

Lowest Rank: Greg (4)

The only director to twice resurrect the James Bond franchise from the brink of irrelevance. Campbell ushered in the Brosnan era after six years of Bondless inactivity and the Craig era after Die Another Day tried to destroy us all. Campbell has a firm grasp on the notion that the best 007 movies are the ones that give James Bond time and space to be James Bond. He’s also a meticulous helmsman when it comes to action. Action in a Campbell film is concise, clear and has a real-world weight. Campbell slides seamlessly from genre to genre, never leaving distinct tracks. In Bond, that meant foregrounding the character and stepping back to admire the coolness. Nothing in Bond is ever bigger than the character. And in that way he perfectly understands the requirements of a James Bond director.

Most notable non-Bond movie: Mask of Zorro (1998)

 

3. Peter Hunt

peter hunt best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Highest Rank: Krissy (1)

Lowest Rank: Greg (7)

Peter R. Hunt worked as an editor on the first five Bond films and a 2nd unit director on Thunderball and You Only Live Twice until summoned to the helm for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As an editor, Hunt was a pioneer of action editing. And as an editor, he knew every seam and every crevice in these Bond films. His directorial debut on OHMSS oozes confidence and puts his experience with action editing and photography on display. Peter R. Hunt also got the rawest deal in all of Bond directorial history. Upon release, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was considered a bust. Hunt’s relationship with Cubby and Saltzman had eroded during the filming and Hunt decided to cut ties with Eon. Hunt’s lone effort in the chair, provides the fuel for so many “what ifs.” What if Hunt had stayed on to director Diamonds Are Forever and beyond? What if we’d gotten a series of Peter Hunt Bonds instead of Guy Hamiltons?

Most notable non-Bond movie: Death Hunt (1981)

 

4. John Glen

john glen best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill

Highest Rank: Greg (3)

Lowest Rank: Krissy (5)

John Glen drops in at #4 for his volume of Bond work and his intermittent highs (despite the lows… the very very lows). Like Hunt, Glen cut his teeth in the editing room and as 2nd unit director on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. With the right material at his disposal Glen proved more than proficient. Operating in the post-Moonraker era of Bond, Glen saw his budgets cut to help pay off that debt. He directed two of the grittiest and underrated Bonds in For Your Eyes Only and Licence to Kill. But within each of his films, Glen knew how have a good time; he fostered a spirit of fun that has been lost in more recent efforts.

Most notable non-Bond film: Uh…. Iron Eagle III?

 

5. Guy Hamilton

guy hamilton best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun

Highest Rank: Greg (2)

Lowest Rank: Krissy (7)

Oh Guy Hamilton, you enigmatic buffoon/genius. Trained under Carol Reed on films like The Third Man and Fallen Idol. He went on to direct military pictures and got his first big budget picture in 1959 — the Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas vehicle The Devil’s Disciple. In 1962, Hamilton turned down the opportunity to direct Dr. No, but remained tied to the Bond production in a consulting role. He accepted his first official Bond gig with Goldfinger (1964)He’s credited with perfecting Bond’s action, comedy and innuendo. Considering the Bond efforts that would follow, one can’t help but consider that Goldfinger success to be a bit of an anomaly. (*cough*Diamonds Are Forever*cough*) And though we generally enjoy LaLD and TMwGG, they’re not the most cohesive or structurally sound pictures. Hamilton looms large in the Bond-verse, but he’s a bit of a divisive figure.

Most notable non-Bond film: Funeral in Berlin (1966)

 

6. Michael Apted

michael apted best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: The World Is Not Enough

Highest Rank: Greg, Jay (5)

Lowest Rank: Krissy (10)

Hey, Michael Apted. If only you’d put the kibosh on that “Christmas only comes once a year line.” If only. The World is Not Enough is stuffed full of good ideas and competent action, but Christmas Jones just drags the whole enterprise down with her. Apted also fostered, arguably, Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond performance. Apted has curated a legendary career in British TV and, unlike many of these directors featured in our countdown, many notable films outside James Bond. The man’s a proven talent in the dramatic arts, he just needed to keep a closer eye on that casting director.

Most notable non-Bond film: Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)? Gorky Park (1983)?

 

7. Roger Spottiswoode

Roger Spottiswoode best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Tomorrow Never Dies

Highest Rank: Greg (6)

Lowest Rank: Krissy (9)

Spottiswoode made a name for himself by being Sam Peckinpah’s go-to editor during the early 1970’s. That in itself is a badge of cinema honor. Among other films, he edited Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. He made his directorial debut with 1980’s Terror Train. His sole contribution to James Bond is the oft-maligned Tomorrow Never Dies. So his villain doesn’t stand out. And there are some comically bad slo-mos… but Spottiswoode shows a deft touch with the action set pieces. It’s unclear how or why Spottiswoode was tabbed to direct this film as his prior commercial success was… uhhh…. Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!

Most notable non-Bond film: Under Fire (1983). It’s either that or Turner & Hooch (1989). 

 

8a. Marc Forster

marc forster best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Quantum of Solace

Highest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (8)

Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (8)

The #Bond_age_ powers were united in the 8th placeness of Marc Forster. James Bond from the director of a bunch of years of Hollywood Oscar bait! Predictably, perhaps, Marc Forster tried to spin Bond in a direction with a little more artistic merit. The Bregenz Opera sequence stands as a testament to avant Bondness. As a result, the Bond purists hated it and the broader public audience thought they were watching another Bourne movie. I’m convinced time and tide will be kinder to Quantum of Solace, but for the moment Forster remains a punching bag. Forster rightfully defends his work on QoS, but regrets not having more time to work on the third act as the writer’s strike put a damper on his creative process.

Most notable non-Bond film: Monster’s Ball (2001)

 

8b. Sam Mendes

sam mendes best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Skyfall, Spectre

Highest Rank: Krissy (4)

Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay (10)

The most divisive name on this list. We’re still unclear about Mendes’ lasting legacy as a Bond director. Skyfall thrilled, but detractors would argue that the film lacked necessary Bondness, that the movie had some structural problems that were obscured behind fine cinematic craftsmanship. This then leads to the conversation about whether or not “Bondness” matters. Pub conversation of the first order. After Spectre, Greg and Jay have fallen on the side with the detractors. Krissy offers more Mendes optimism due to her positive takeaway from Spectre.

Most notable non-Bond film: American Beauty (1999)

 

8c. Lewis Gilbert

lewis gilbert best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker

Highest Rank: Krissy (6)

Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay (9)

Sandwiched between two stinkers lies The Spy Who Loved Me. How does one come to terms with these bipolar tendencies? Lewis Gilbert began his career just after World War II as a documentary filmmaker for Gaumont British. His first feature-length films based on true stories from the war. And then he directed Alfie (1966) starring Michael Caine and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director. The film also received five Academy Award nominations. After Alfie, Lewis directed You Only Live Twice. Because that’s what you do after you direct a low budget British comedy based on a stage play.

Most notable non-Bond movie: Alfie (1966)

11. Lee Tamahori

lee tamahori best bond directors

Vitals:

Movies: Die Another Day

Highest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (11)

Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (11)

WE ARE UNITED.

What kills me is that this was the guy that directed Once Were Warriors (1994), which is an amazing goddamn film. And then Hollywood got hold of him and he directed Along Came a Spider and XxX: State of the Union. There’s not much to say about Die Another Day‘s place in the Bond canon. Fever dream of the first worst order.

Most notable non-Bond film: Once Were Warriors (1994).

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SPECTRE Opening Titles Remixed with Portishead

SPECTRE Opening Titles Remixed with Portishead

portishead james bond

I hadn’t heard this song in a long time. “Sour Times” hails from album Dummy, released in 1994. I was obsessed with this record. That might be putting it mildly, however. I kept this album in my car until roughly 2002 — when my car, including my Portishead record was stolen. I got the car and my golf clubs back. Not so much the Portishead CD. I happened across “Sour Times” on XMU during my morning drive and I thought, “Holy shit that would be a great Bond song.” I tested it with a few of the slower, more methodical Bond titles but I liked it best with Spectre. I really wanted to finally match up something with For Your Eyes Only, but then I remembered why I’ve never matched anything with For Your Eyes Only — Sheena’s silly head singing along with the lyrics. C’mon Sheena. Down in front. Some of Portishead’s lyrics synced nicely with the Spectre visuals so I let it ride. The oddity here is that the credit sequence has a longer runtime than the song. I manipulated the pacing of specific sequences in the video for better overall timing. The result? Another blissfully Sam Smith-free version of the Spectre titles. It feels like low-hanging fruit to keep replacing Sam Smith, but I think you’ll agree that this specific replacement was well worth the effort.

 

Spectre Opening Titles Remixed with Portishead

Spectre Opening Titles Remixed w/ Portishead from #Bond_age_ on Vimeo.

O Canada Blogathon: The Cold War in Canada – The Iron Curtain (1948)

Poster_of_the_movie_The_Iron_Curtain

I’ve been a lifelong fan of the spy genre. While family and friends were reading books like the Lord of the Rings, I was reading books like The Bourne Identity (which is *nothing* like the movie). I also have a love of my hometown, Ottawa.  Though Ottawa has a reputation today of being a quiet and sedate town for the most part, it was a different story 50 years ago. During World War II, Ottawa shared in the Allied war effort, and established itself as a staunch friend to both the British and the US. Ottawa was represented in the Hollywood war effort as well, featured prominently in the 1942 James Cagney film Captains of the Clouds.  The year after Captains was released, a cipher clerk arrived in Ottawa to begin a career at the Russian Embassy. His name was Igor Gouzenko, and his story would fundamentally change the world.

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For those not familiar with his story, Igor Gouzenko was a clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa from 1943-1945. During the final years of the war, he had access to all the top secret information coming out of the Embassy. This included information that the Soviets had no reason to know, which was evidence of a massive Soviet spy ring operating in Canada.  By 1945, the Soviets were ready to call Gouzenko and his family back to Moscow, but Igor wasn’t willing to go. Instead, he walked out of the Embassy one evening with documentation of the spy ring, and went off to find someone to tell his story to. Unbelievably, he couldn’t find anyone initially interested in his story, and he spent most of his time playing cat and mouse with Soviet security agents, who had by now become aware of the missing documents and were actively searching for him. This would eventually result in a confrontation between Soviet agents and the Ottawa police, when the Soviets were found looking through Gouzenko’s home. By the next day, Gouzenko was telling his story to the RCMP, and later MI5 and the FBI. As a result, the potential for Soviet spies working in the West became a major source of concern, and the rooting out of such spies a tip priority in all areas of Western society. Gouzenko and his family were given asylum by the Canadian government, and spent the rest of their lives in witness protection.

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I’ve known about Gouzenko’s story since I was a teenager, but I had no idea that his story had ever been told on film. Then, back in 2012, I discovered that there was going to be a showing of a film called The Iron Curtain, filmed in 1948, which told Gouzenko’s story.  The film was directed by William A. Wellman, known for films such as The Public Enemy (1931), A Star is Born (1937), and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). The film stars Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in their third of five movies together, and their first movie together since the classic noir Laura (1944). Andrews played Igor Gouzenko, and Gene Tierney his wife. The film, to my delight, was actually shot in Ottawa, and not on Hollywood soundstages (or at least, had extensive Ottawa filming).

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As Igor Gouzenko, Dana Andrews plays it very quiet and straightforward; he starts the film as a man who has come to Ottawa to do his job, and obeys the rules set down by Soviet security. It’s only after his wife joins him in Ottawa that he starts to question life under Soviet rule.  Andrews and Tierney work very well together, and there are some very tense moments after the defection that comes across very well. They successfully establish the panic that must have been going through their minds when they realize that protection and help from the Canadians aren’t coming immediately. I also loved seeing the glimpse of Ottawa as it was back then, recognizing various snow-covered landmarks.  It is a very straightforward retelling of one of the key moments in Canadian history.

 A quick little postscript for this blogpost: it turns out that, while this is the first movie to focus on Igor Gouzenko’s defection (that I know of), it is not, in fact, the only movie made about Igor Gouzenko. In 1954, United Artists released Operation Manhunt, which also told the Gouzenko story. By all accounts, its focus was more on the Soviet response to Gouzenko’s defection, with assassins sent to Canada to murder him. It is, unfortunately, a film I’ve never seen, so I can’t give any great details about it. But if I ever get the chance to see the entire film, I certainly will. The Gouzenko Affair was such a crucial moment for Canada in world history, and deserves to be told again and again.

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Spectre Opening Remixed w/ Lana Del Rey

Spectre Opening Remixed w/ Lana Del Rey

lana del rey spectre

Let us never speak of that other Spectre song ever again. Never. I’m not joking. That that guy was chosen over Lana Del Rey’s “24” is one of the great crimes against humanity. I’m only slightly exaggerating. This is a Bond song. This could have been one of the great Bond songs. Lana Del Rey’s vocals on “24” remind of Nancy Sinatra’s in “You Only Live Twice” but Lana doesn’t need the lush string orchestration to bail her out of the tough bits. Fan of #Bond_age_, James Tracey has kindly placed Lana Del Rey in her rightful place over the Spectre title credits. And for that we thank him.

Spectre Opening Remixed with Lana Del Rey

Spectre Titles w/ “24” BY Lana Del Rey from James Tracey on Vimeo.

You Only Live Twice Opening Remixed w/ Pizzicato Five

You Only Live Twice Opening Remixed w/ Pizzicato Five

pizzicato five

Love erupts and cultures clash in this hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy about two boys and two girls lost in the Orient. Sean Connery is James, a dashing mild-mannered British importer/exporter who meets cute as a button Japanese tourist Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), and embarks on a whiz bang romance. Now, on their way to meet Kissy’s large family back home in Japan, the pair is accompanied by James’ bumbling ugly ducking Oxford pal Ernst (Donald Pleasance) and Kissy’s traveling companion Aki. Can the quartet find happiness? Will James and Kissy tie the knot? And what’s the true story behind Ernst’s scar? The only certainty in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is soy-flavored fun!

 

You Only Live Twice Opening Remixed w/ Pizzicato Five

You Only Live Twice Opening remixed w/ Pizzicato Five from James Patrick on Vimeo.

#Bond_age_ Bond Theme Rankings

#Bond_age_ Bond Theme Rankings

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#Bond_age_ Licence to List: Bond Theme Rankings

As an introduction to the next series of Bond posts leading up to the release of SPECTRE, the #Bond_age_ powers have come together with a cumulative rank of their favorite Bond theme songs. And yes we’re piggybacking on the release today of Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.” This list includes vocal tracks only. So while Matt Munro’s “From Russia With Love” did not open From Russia With Love, it was still the title track. Meanwhile, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” does not count (because it is an instrumental) and likewise for Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World” because it is not the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme. That leaves 21 vocal theme tracks. We will not dare to rank the new Sam Smith track until we’ve heard it the context of the film. We don’t want to jump to any conclusions (Jay, excepted perhaps. He’s planning pickets and gathering pitchforks).

For our next list, you, the reader/Twatterer/#Bond_age_ junkie can suggest a topic and submit your own list. You will then choose your opponent (either Jay, Krissy or Greg) to a List Off, Iron Chef style (Iron #Bond_age_, eh?). Everyone else will choose a winner, mock our choices or cause general havoc down there in the comments of the page. With all that logistical nonsense out of the way (where’s Moneypenny?), here’s our ranking of the 21 Bond themes, highest ranked to lowest because we don’t believe in that delayed gratification anyway. Hand out the big awards first and then hang around for the snark about Sheryl Crow.

Ready? Let’s take a sonic journey through 50 years of Bond. (more…)