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Behind the scenes with James Bond in ‘You Only Live Twice’

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The revolution of the sixties kicked off on October 5th, 1962. This was the day The Beatles released their first single “Love Me Do” and Sean Connery was launched on to the big screen as James Bond in Dr. No. Between these twin poles of movies and music the decade began. By 1967, The Beatles were the most influential band on the planet while Connery was the world’s best known actor, and iconic star of the most successful movie franchise of all time.

During the filming of the fifth James Bond movie You Only LIve Twice journalist and presenter Alan Whicker—best known for his rather snide, tabloid and often condescending reporting—made a documentary examining the success and cultural obsession with Ian Fleming’s super spy, or as he termed it “Bondomania.” Whicker bangs on about sex, sadism, amorality and violence, quizzing Connery, producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and screenwriter Roald Dahl—who disagrees with Whicker’s insinuation, describing Bond as a “tough, rather insensitive fellow who’s very good at his job.”
 
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The Bond format of gadgets, girls and guns was set by the previous two movies Goldfinger and Thunderball. This time Dahl’s screenplay pushed the form to the limit—dumping most of Ian Fleming’s original novel and inventing his own comic book narrative—an action scene on average every five minutes—throwing Bond into unrelenting danger until the final climactic moments.

Dahl considered You Only Live Twice to be “Fleming’s worst book, with no plot in it,” and he therefore filled the movie with his own quirky inventions—rocket gobbling spacecraft, a volcanic island disguised as a mini Cape Canaveral, and so on. I think Dahl’s criticism harsh, as I am on the side who think Fleming’s books are actually superior to the films, as they reveal a conflicted Bond, insecure, violent, remorseful, smoking, drinking and popping pills to keep himself functioning. Fleming gave Bond an emotional narrative—from strong, confident agent to broken, haunted spy obsessing over his own mortality—which the films have generally ignored.

You Only Live Twice was the last Bond novel published in Fleming’s lifetime—he died of a heart attack, aged 56, two months after its appearance—the last novel The Man with the Golden Gun and the story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights were published posthumously. The film was to be Connery’s last Bond until Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. The title comes from a haiku Bond writes when he is “reborn” as “Taro Todoroki,” a mute Japanese coal miner, to gain access to Dr. Guntram Shatterhand or rather Ernst Stavros Blofeld’s Garden of Death.

You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face.

 
More behind the scenes of ‘You Only Live Twice,’ after the jump…

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‘Shakespeare. William Shakespeare’: Sean Connery stars as ‘Macbeth’ in seldom seen TV production

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Shean Connery does Shakespeare? Shurely there’s shome mishtake?

Well no, for as Michael Caine once said, Sean Connery was always “a much better actor than just playing James Bond.” This can be seen by his performances in Hitchcock’s Marnie, or his first three films with Sidney Lumet—as military prisoner Joe Roberts in the outstanding The Hill, the eponymous crook in The Anderson Tapes, and one of his finest performances as a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown in The Offence. Then, of course, there’s John Boorman’s Zardoz, or his performance alongside Caine in John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King, or as a space marshall in Peter Hyams’ Outland, or as the maverick characters in The Name of the Rose, The Hunt for Red October, The Rock, Gus Van Sant’s Find Forrester and so on and so on. That his final films aren’t so good is down to poor choices and the moronic commercialization of Hollywood by producers who would be more suited to working as junior office clerks or assistants in shoe shops. That said, if only Connery had agreed to come out of retirement and play Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, how different this may have been. (The actor was even offered 15% of the box office gross, for which he’d have personally made out with $400 million!)

In 1961, the year before he became internationally famous as Bond in Dr. No, Connery gave a critically acclaimed performance in a Canadian television production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth—or the “Scottish Play” as it is sometimes called by very superstitious actors. Shot in a studio in Toronto in a rather stylized manner—with few props or sets, using big close-ups and tilted camera angles—the production shows Connery is more than competent at delivering the Bard’s lines.

Macbeth tells the story of an ambitious soldier whose meeting with three witches (or “Weird Sisters”) on a “blasted heath” after a battle convinces him he will one day become King of Scotland. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, and predict he will soon be Thane of Cawdor and King therefafter. These predictions set Macbeth off on a murderous path that will eventually prove his undoing.
 
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There’s an interesting connection between Macbeth and the hacktivist group Anonymous and that is Guy Fawkes—the infamous Papist plotter who planned (along with eleven others) to blow up the English House of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. This was the Gunpowder Plot and its failure is still celebrated today in the UK as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.

Fawkes’ bearded features have long been reproduced on cardboard masks for children to wear during Bonfire celebrations. This Guy Fawkes mask was reinterpreted by illustrator David Lloyd for the character “V” in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and has since become a recognizable avatar for Anonymous and the Occupy movement.

Apart form being very loosely based on a real Scottish King, Shakespeare’s Macbeth was written as piece of flattering propaganda for the new English King James I, who was also James VI of Scotland.
 
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James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and inherited the English throne from Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 after she died without issue. The English were suspicious of this dour Scottish Calvinist taking reign of their country and there was one attempted coup before the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In response to this plot, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth as a way to “flatter King James,” as the scholar A. L. Rowse wrote in his biography of Shakespeare:

...his Majesty received a great shock with the exposure of the Gunpowder Plot, 5 November 1605, which was to have blown him and his family, with all the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, sky high at the hands of the extreme wing of young Catholic malcontents. These events are not only reflected in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, but I think it fairly clear that the conception of such a play was suggested by them….Shakespeare, ever-responsive to the public mood, was inspired to write a play to do honour to the dynasty’s legendary forbear, Banquo, and thus to the King.

....[Macbeth] pays more tribute to the Scottish King than ever the dramatist had paid to the English Queen in all his previous work….in Macbeth we have tributes paid to Banquo, the mythical ancestor of [King James], to his ‘royalty of nature’, the dauntless temper of his mind’, the wisdom that doth guide his valour,’ while we are constantly reminded of the [witches’] prophecy that [Banquo]...shalt get kings, though thou be none.

Similarly [King James’s] personal interest in witches and demonology is catered for by the dominating influence exerted by the Weird Sisters, who are really incarnations of evil. James had written a book on demonology in Scotland, which Shakespeare read up for his play along with other Scottish lore: this Calvinist was very sure that witches and demons existed, where Queen Elizabeth, a sensible Erasmian, gave no such thought to such matters. King James knew that it was the witches who had raised up the storm that made his crossing the North Sea to marry Anne of Denmark so very unpleasant.

While Shakespeare flattered the new King, he did much to discredit the real Macbeth, who had been a successful ruler of Scotland from 1040 until 1057. He was no murderous tyrant but was described as “renowned” and gave equal rights to women during his reign and shared wealth amongst the people of Scotland—something quite unheard of at that time.

The camera loves Sean Connery and he certainly gives a good interpretation of Macbeth, and is ably supported by Zoe Caldwell as Lady Macbeth, William Needles as Banquo, Ted Follows as Macduff, Robin Gammell as Malcolm and Sharon Acker as Lady Macduff. This Canadian television production was directed by Paul Almond.
 

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Double-O-Heaven: Behind the scenes of 25 James Bond films

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When it all began: ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and Harry Saltzman discuss filming ‘Dr. No,’ 1962.
 
Noël Coward told his friend Ian Fleming to get on and “write his bloody book,” as he had been talking about it for too bloody long. Fleming had a good idea of what he wanted to write and why he wanted to do it, but he did not get round to writing his first James Bond novel Casino Royale until 1952. His reasons for writing were complex—he wanted to prove he could do it as his brother was a highly acclaimed travel writer, while his future wife and their close friends were part of a glittering and dreadfully snobbish literary set; and Fleming liked the money being a successful writer might bring, though he did claim he wrote for pleasure and only published for money.

Fleming later rather disingenuously described his books as “the pillow fantasies of an adolescent mind,” which belied the truth that his fictions were well written, stylish and contained the structure most thriller writers would imitate over the succeeding decades. He was an assiduous worker writing 2,000 words a day—a hard discipline he had learned from his time as a journalist, which had also taught him the importance of economy in descriptive writing:

“If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky to write five hundred words a day.”

When Casino Royale was first published in 1953, it was rightly praised by readers and critics alike, with the poet John Betjeman astutely pointing out that Fleming had “discovered the secret of narrative art.” The following year saw the publication of Live and Let Die, then Moonraker in 1955 and Diamonds Are Forever in 1956. After the overwhelming critical success of his first Bond novel, the literati were quick to turn on Fleming and damn his books as pornographic, unhealthy and obsessed with sadomasochism. However, he did have his supporters, key among which were Raymond Chandler, who considered Fleming as a “most forceful and driving” thriller writer, while Noël Coward correctly stated that Fleming’s books would outlive the literary critics and their weighty tomes.

Fleming was never of robust health, and after being mauled by the snobbish reviewers, he decided to put his all into his next book, 1957’s From Russia With Love, setting Bond up with a fateful and near fatal confrontation with SMERSH Colonel Rosa Klebb and her hired assassin the psychopathic serial killer Red Grant. It was a winning roll of the dice especially once President John F. Kennedy said From Russia With Love was one of his favorite novels, which quickly established Fleming as major writer on both sides of the Atlantic.

With greater success in America, Fleming’s books were soon the source of much consideration from Hollywood—but this proved to be false bonhomie and an excess of hot air. Eventually, film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli formed a company with a former circus performer and intelligence agent, Harry Saltzman, who had bought the rights to all of Fleming’s books (except Casino Royale) called EON—“Everything or Nothing.” The pair decided to film Dr. No and began considering potential actors for the role of Bond. Fleming wanted the likes of Cary Grant or David Niven, but Broccoli and Saltzman held out for a little known Scottish actor called Sean Connery. At first, Fleming was none too happy, but after being told by a close female friend that Connery had “it” he decided to agree on having the former milkman, body builder and coffin polisher star as James Bond.

The success of the Bond films was far greater than either Fleming, Broccoli or Saltzman had considered, spanning six decades and six different actors in the title role—from the first film Dr. No in 1962, to the recent announcement of next year’s release of the 24th official Bond movie Spectre, it is difficult to imagine a time when there won’t be a new James Bond movie on the horizon.

While everyone has their own favorite James Bond—usually the actor they first saw in the role—this selection of stills shows the diverse nature of Bond from 25 different official and unofficial (the comic Casino Royale (1967) and Connery’s reprise in Never Say Never Again) 007 movies and the incredibly durability of Ian Fleming’s creation.
 
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‘Dr. No’ (1962)
 
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‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)
 
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‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
 
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‘Thunderball’ (1965)
 
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‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)
 
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‘Casino Royale’ (1967)
 
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‘On Her Majesty’s Setvice Service’ (1969)
 
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‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971)
 
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‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
 
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‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ (1974)
 
More after the jump…

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The story behind James Bond and his weapon of choice

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We are in the land of bewhiskered firearms experts, secret agents, and eccentric Majors, where the quality of weapons are considered by their effectiveness to kill, without thought to the consequences of this function. It’s a fictional land, but with much bearing in fact.

Geoffrey Boothroyd liked to read spy novels, and in 1956, he was much taken by the latest thriller from Ian Fleming. But there was something wrong with this novel that featured the dashing Secret Service agent, James Bond, “certain inaccuracies” that made Mr. Boothroyd contact the author, to tell him:

“‘I don’t think Bond was going to last very long if he used a 25 Beretta pistol…

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If we look at the series of James Bond novels, we can see that in the first, Casino Royale, Fleming armed his hero with a .25 calibre Beretta M418. This was a small pocket pistol that had limited stopping power. Bond kept this weapon in a chamois shoulder holster, which sounds overly fashionable (and done so as not ruin the line of his jacket), but it is not practical for a quick draw, as the soft leather catches onto the pistol. This is why holsters are usually made of solid, hard leather, for easy access.

Boothroyd wrote a politely critical letter to Fleming, in which he stated:

I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25.

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?

 
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Geoffrey Boothroyd and Ian Fleming try out a pistol for James Bond.
 
Ian Fleming was greatly impressed by Boothroyd’s knowledge, and wrote back:

KEMSLEY HOUSE, LONDON, W.C.1.

31st May, 1956

Dear Mr Boothroyd,

I really am most grateful for your splendid letter of May 23rd.

You have entirely convinced me and I propose, perhaps not in the next volume of James Bond’s memoirs but, in the subsequent one, to change his weapons in accordance with your instructions.

Since I am not in the habit of stealing another man’s expertise, I shall ask you in due course to accept remuneration for your most valuable technical aid.

Incidentally, can you suggest where I can see a .38 Airweight in London. Who would have one?

As a matter of interest, how do you come to know so much about these things? I was delighted with the photographs and greatly impressed by them. If ever there is talk of making films of some of James Bond’s stories in due course, I shall suggest to the company concerned that they might like to consult you on some technical aspects. But they may not take my advice, so please do not set too much store by this suggestion.

From the style of your writing it occurs to me that you may have written books or articles on these subjects. Is that so?

Bond has always admitted to me that the .25 Beretta was not a stopping gun, and he places much more reliance on his accuracy with it than in any particular qualities of the gun itself. As you know, one gets used to a gun and it may take some time for him to settle down with the Smith and Wesson. But I think M. should advise him to make a change; as also in the case of the .357 Magnum.

He also agrees to give a fair trial to the Bern Martin holster, but he is inclined to favour something a little more casual and less bulky. The well-worn chamois leather pouch under his left arm has become almost a part of his clothes and he will be loath to make a change though, here again, M. may intervene.

At the present moment Bond is particularly anxious for expertise on the weapons likely to be carried by Russian agents and I wonder if you have any information on this.

As Bond’s biographer I am most anxious to see that he lives as long as possible and I shall be most grateful for any further technical advices you might like me to pass on to him.

Again, with very sincere thanks for your extremely helpful and workmanlike letter.

Yours sincerely

(Signed)

IAN FLEMING

G. Boothroyd, Esq.,
17, Regent Park Square,
Glasgow, S

Indeed, Fleming did take on Mr. Boothroyd’s advice. In the fifth Bond novel, From Russia With Love, the Secret Service agent was greatly imperiled when the silencer on his Beretta snagged on his favorite chamois holster. This was the last novel in which Bond used a Beretta 418. In the subsequent novel, Dr. No, Bond was armed with a Walther PPK.

As a “thank you” to the Glasgow-based firearms expert, Fleming created the character Major Boothroyd, who first appeared in the sixth novel Dr. No as Bond’s service armorer. This character became “Q” in the Bond films, who was first played by Peter Burton in Dr. No, then from the second film, From Russia With Love, onwards, he was played by Desmond Llewelyn, until the actor’s death in 1999. John Cleese then took over the role right up to the arrival of Daniel Craig, where “Q” disappeared from the film series, until Ben Wishaw took up the role in Skyfall (2012).

Boothroyd also helped design the three-quarter trigger guard pistol used on the cover of Fleming’s From Russia With Love. Due to his interest in handguns, Boothroyd gave advice to the police during the murder investigation of American-Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel.

Boothroyd died in October 2001.

During the filming of the third James Bond movie, Goldfinger, at Pinewood Studios, England, in 1963, Sean Connery took time-off to present a brief film on the history of Bond’s weapon of choice.

Connery introduces Geoffrey Boothroyd, who explains the background to his interest in the character, the differences between the Beretta 418, Walther PPK and Boothroyd’s preferred gun, the Magnum 44—Dirty Harry’s favored tool of his trade.
 

 
H/T Letters of Note

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A brief introduction to ‘Sean Connery’s Edinburgh,’ 1982

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An all too brief extract from Sean Connery’s Edinburgh, a promotional documentary for the ancient Scottish capital, directed by Murray Grigor and starring the city’s most famous milkman.

This wasn’t Connery’s first documentary, back in 1967 he presented, produced and directed a brilliant (and rarely seen) documentary called The Bowler and The Bunnet, which examined the political tensions between the workforce (“bunnets”) and the employers (“Bowler hats”) at Fairfield’s shipyard on Glasgow’s River Clyde. Scripted by Cliff Hanley, the film revealed Connery’s natural mastery of documentary film-making, and it is only a pity that he didn’t continue to make similar films on other social and political issues.

Perhaps, with the imminent referendum on Scottish independence, Connery may yet return to make a documentary on the future of Scotland?
 

 

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‘Zardoz’: Stills of Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling from John Boorman’s neglected masterpiece

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A fine selection of stills from John Boorman’s neglected masterpiece Zardoz, which starred Sean Connery as Zed, an Exterminator, who escapes to the land of his rulers, the jaded Eternals (Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton) bringing them sex and death.

I am great fan of this film, and particularly its novelization, written by Boorman and Bill Stair, which brought a small epiphany to my childhood. It would be good to see Zardoz rightfully reclaimed as a classic of the 1970’s cinema, one that reflected many of the ideas and politics of that decade, leading to a re-mastered version of Zardoz having a re-release on the film festival circuit. 
 
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Previously on Dangerous Minds

Photospread on John Boorman’s ‘Zardoz’ from 1974


‘Zardoz’ re-imagined as an 8-bit game


 
H/T Retronaut, via Tout Cine
 

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‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’: James Bond’s behind-the-scenes secrets

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Your favorite James Bond tends to be the one you saw first. I saw Sean Connery first in a double bill of Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, at the Astoria Cinema, Edinburgh. This was soon followed by Diamonds are Forever at the Playhouse. Of course, Connery being Scots means I am probably biased, but his Bond had what made the series work best - sophistication, humor and thrills.

If it came to a second choice? Well, Moore never seemed sure if he was playing Simon Templar or Lord Brett Sinclair, and by Octopussy, he was cast as a sub-Flashman character in a dismal script by Flashman author, George MacDonald Fraser. Timothy Dalton was too dull and way too serious, perhaps he should have played it more like Simon Skinner, a slightly unhinged secret service man with a license to kill. Pierce Brosnan was good but deserved far better scripts - his Bond should have eliminated the scriptwriters. And as for Daniel Craig - started well, but he looks like he’s in a different film franchise.

For me George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the only possible second choice. He tried to make his Bond more humane, and kept much what was best in Connery’s interpretation. He was also assisted by a cracking script by Richard Maibaum (additional dialog by Simon “the mind of a cad and the pen of an angel” Raven); an excellent supporting of Diana Rigg as Countess Tracy di Vicenzo, and Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld; and one of the best opening theme tunes (and a glorious song sung by Louis Armstrong) of the series by John Barry.

Yet no matter what Lazenby did, or how good the film, he faced the momentous task of filling a role made by Sean Connery, and he was damned by a lot of critics for it. In this rarely seen interview, George Lazenby talks about the difficulties faced in making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the rumors, the on-set niggles and why he was banned for growing a beard. First broadcast on the BBC, February 4th, 1970.
 

 
With thanks to Nellym
 

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Michael Caine: Behind the scenes of ‘Funeral in Berlin’

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I always preferred Len Deighton’s anonymous spy to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. There was something too glib and unexciting about Bond, like Superman you knew he could never be defeated, which made it all rather pointless. Whereas Deighton’s spy was fallible, awkward, funny and quite often messed things up.

When it came to the films, it was a more difficult choice. Sean Connery made Bond his own, and has never been equalled. But Michael Caine was equally successful with his interpretation of the Deighton’s insubordinate spy (now named) Harry Palmer in a trilogy of brilliant spy films. Of course, he later nearly blew it all by making two sub-standard Palmer films in the 1990s, the less said about which the better.

Here is Michael Caine with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the second Palmer movie, Funeral in Berlin. The quality of this video is not brilliant, and yes, it does have an irritating text written over it, but there is enough fascinating things going on to make Man on the Wall very watchable.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

The true story behind ‘The Mackintosh Man’


 

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‘Eleven’: Do the Scots really need an Aye-Phone?

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The Los Angeles Times reports Siri the voice activated assistant for the i-Phone is having difficulty understanding the Scottish accent, as according to reporter Henry Chu:

Scots who rushed to buy it have discovered that their new “smart” gadget can’t understand them. This is true despite the fact that their phones are set to “English (United Kingdom)” under the “language” setting for Siri, which doesn’t seem to take the distinctive Scottish burr into much account.

“What’s the weather like today?” Darren Lillie said hopefully into his iPhone recently here in the Scottish capital, in a demonstration for an American reporter.

Lillie, 25, is Edinburgh born and bred, and his thick accent shows it.

Siri thought for a moment, then decided it best to repeat what it thought it heard.

“What’s available in Labor Day?” it asked.

Lillie shook his head. “I don’t even know what Labor Day is,” he said ruefully to the American, who told him.

...

In other clips, “Can you dance with me?” gets misinterpreted as “Can you Dutch women?” and the question “How many miles are there in 10 kilometers?” elicits the helpful, if irrelevant, response: “I don’t see any email for yesterday.”

Lillie admits to adjusting his speech patterns to get Siri to understand him.

“I find I speak slower. It’s like when I speak to tourists,” he said to the American reporter, who felt at once both patronized and relieved.

Hardly news, and the kind of story best suited to the “Jings! Crivvens! Help ma boab!” kind of headline, allowing for the usual nationalistic rebuttal, name-checking Edinburgh-born inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell turning in his grave, and the success of such Scots accents as Schir Schean Connery, Ewan MacGregor, Kelly MacDonald, Robert Carlyle, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson, mcetc mcetc. But really, it just made me of Stanley Baxter’s excellent Parliamo Glasgow from the 1960s, and this wonderfully apt sketch from present day and the rather splendid Burnistoun.
 

 
Via LA Times, with thanks to Richard Metzger
 
Bonus clip of ‘Parliamo Glasgow’, after the jump…
 

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James Bond and his guns

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An interesting curio from the 1960s explaining the derivation of James Bond’s weapon of choice.

In the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, Ian Fleming armed 007 with a .25 calibre Beretta Jetfire, which he kept in a chamois shoulder holster, so as not ruin the line of his jacket. However, in 1956, a Glasgow-based firearms expert, Geoffrey Boothroyd, wrote to Fleming suggesting a Beretta wasn’t necessarily the best gun for a spy:

“I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25.

“May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?”

Fleming opted for the Walther PPK, and graciously thanked Boothroyd for his advice by creating the fictional character Major Boothroyd, a service armourer, who first appeared in Dr. No and subsequent Bond novels. Later, Major Boothroyd was identified simply as ‘Q’ in the Bond films, and was played first by Peter Burton, then from the second film onwards, by Desmond Llewelyn, until his death in 1999, when John Cleese took over the role.

In the following clip from 1964, Sean Connery introduces Boothroyd, where he explains the differences between a Beretta, a Walter PPK and a .44 Magnum - better known as Dirty Harry’s favored tool of the trade. A longer version can be viewed here.
 

 
Via Letters of Note
 

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Photo-spread for John Boorman’s ‘Zardoz’, 1974

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I read John Boorman and Bill Stair’s novelization of Zardoz when I was about 12. It was—to be frank—a defining moment in my childhood. The story chimed with many of my half-baked thoughts about those usual tropes—the control of religion, the division of class, society’s inequalities and its endemic violence. In a way you could say it was the start of my adult education. The book held extra significance as I had walked home from school for a week to save the money on bus fares to buy it. After reading it—nothing was ever the same. How could it be? When within its opening pages a flying godhead Zardoz has descended form the heavens and announced to its murderous followers:

“You have been raised up from Brutality, to kill the Brutals who multiply, and are legion. To this end, Zardoz your God gave you the gift of the Gun. The Gun is good!

“The Penis is evil! The Penis shoots Seeds, and makes new Life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the Gun shoots Death and purifies the Earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill! Zardoz has spoken.”

 
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When Sean Connery was sent the script, he was “absolutely caught by its originality”, as he told Gordon Gow from Films and Filming in 1974:

“It was one of the best ideas I’d come across for ages…So by the following weekend I was over in Ireland to prepare for filming.

“What gripped me especially was the direction the people in [the script] were taking in the future existence, as opposed to space ships and rockets and all that…[..]...What does interest me is the possible development of society in centuries to come. The way different levels and types evolve in the script is intriguing and refreshing, and could well be true. The fact that people are not going to die, for example.

“Many things are changed by the knowledge you’re not going to die. There’s no need to procreate, therefore it takes away the sexual drives. Today we live in the age of analysis: we can give answers as to why people do things, whether it’s ambition or fighting for power or because they hated their father or their mother - their hangups become a kind of blueprint to their behavior. But if you take that away you get an entirely different concept of human beings.’

Connery hadn’t been Boorman’s first choice, that had been Burt Reynolds, with whom Boorman had scored the major hit Deliverance. Somehow I can’t imagine Reynolds carrying off the thigh high boots or red loin cloth, or exuding the necessary untrammeled masculinity. With the success of Deliverancve, Boorman was given a carte blanche to make what he wanted. He started working on a science fiction script, Zardoz, in 1972, and brought in Bill Stair to “...help rationalize the visions that threatened to engulf me.”

Zardoz is certainly rich with ideas, some better developed than others, but all have their own merits. That’s one thing about the best of seventies’ films, they had intelligence behind them, ideas at play, rather than today’s reliance on CGI and anodyne stories.

Set in the 23rd century, where Exterminators trade grain with their god - Zardoz - for guns to exploit and kill. Enter Zed (Connery) who questions why a god would require grain, and sneaks on board the flying godhead to uncover the secret of Zardoz and life beyond the Outlands in the Vortex.

The Outlands: once it was called the good Earth. Now it is the desolate, exhausted, polluted wasteland all the world has become, except for the lush Vortex.

The Eternals: members of the Vortex. Highly privileged scientists and intellectuals, eternally young, who have learned all the Secrets of Life - except one.

The Exterminators: a privileged and physically superior group permitted to breed under strict control to fight the Brutals and support the Vortex.

The Brutals: the last survivors of the dying world outside the Vortex, who live at subsistence level.

The Apathetics: victims of the pursuit of perfection, they are Eternals who have found the strain of immortality too great and live only for the one thing their society denies them.

The Renegades: malicious, embittered offenders in the Vortex who would defy and destroy the establishment - if they could only find it.

Connery explained the film to Gow:

“Then society, a sit always does, starts to fragment into different strata. There are the Apathetics and the Renegades. They are all Eternals, these people, who are going to live forever. The base of all the great learning that the world has accumulated by that stage becomes a Tabernacle, which gives people information as to how to act, like a major computer, a great feed-tank put together by the best minds of the world. But the human condition is such that it still retains anger and other emotions.

“There are areas like oases: each is known as a Vortex. They exist throughout the world on a system of highly democratic rule with guidelines supplied from the Tabernacle. But the Renegades abhor the system and fight it…[..]...On the other hand, the Apathetics are reluctant to do anything at all..the Renegades they’d really like to die, to get out.

“Beyond the Vortex areas, there are the Outlands: very barren. The inhabitants there are called the Brutals, they’re rather like our present society, not very civilized. The god Zardoz gives the Brutals something to worship, the gun. the penis is evil, the gun is good. The Brutals are necessary to each Vortex, because they’ve been taught to provide wheat and other food substances…[..]...This is where the character I play comes in. I hide in the head…[..]...and set about destroying the society.”

For your delectation, here is the original photo preview for Zardoz, which appeared in Films and Filming in March 1974.
 
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More pics from ‘zardoz’, after the jump…
 

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Around the world with Sean Connery’s accent
07.24.2011
05:42 pm

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Amusing
Sean Connery
Scotland
Acting

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There are few actors who have exploited their accent as successfully as Sir Sean Connery.

No matter the role, Sir Sean’s always sounds the same, whether he’s an Egyptian immortal in Highlander, an English King, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, or a New York beatnik in A Fine Madness, he never alters his lispy Scotch accent.

Here’s a quick trip around the world according to Sir Sean.
 

Egypt: Who can forget Connery’s wonderful Egyptian Tak Ne (aka Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez), who teaches Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod all he needs to know to be the only one in Highlander (1986)
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Sean Connery gave TV its first male-to-male kiss


Sean Connery: The Musical 


 
More vocal riches from Sean after the jump…
 

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‘Zardoz’ imagined as an 8bit game

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I’ve always been a fan of John Boorman’s Zardoz, no matter how camp, cheesy, or even ridiculous it may seem. Therefore, I do wish this brief 8-bit animation by nickcriscuolo was a real game.

Okay, it’s only an opening sequence, but just think of the potential Boorman’s and Bill Stair’s original story offers: as the Exterminator Zed (Sean Connery) crosses from the land of the Brutals (where “the gun is good and the penis is evil”), to a world of the Eternals, Apathetics, Renegades and the lovely Charlotte Rampling, where Zed finds himself the subject of the Eternals’ experiments and games, and uncovers the dark secret at the heart of their Vortex and its Tabernacle. O, yes this could work.

And of course, Connery and Rampling would voice it, and there’d be optional thigh-length boots. How bloody marvelous.
 

 
Bonus clip of original ‘Zardoz’ film trailer, after the jump…
 

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Sean Connery gave TV its first male-to-male kiss

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Here’s a small piece of TV history as Sir Sean Connery kisses Richard Pasco in a BBC production of Jean Anouilh’s play Colombe from 1960.

This is the first ever male-to-male kiss aired on television. It would take the BBC another twenty-seven years to show two men kissing on-screen again, in an episode of the soap opera EastEnders. For fact-fans, the first man-to-man kiss in a major movie is claimed by Raf Valone in the 1962 feature Vu du Pont.

While this is a TV first, the kissing couple were not lovers but brothers. Connery’s character Julien believes his brother Paul (Pasco) is having an affair with his wife Colombe (Dorothy Tutin), and kisses Pasco to find out what makes him such a good lover. Hm, that old excuse?

This might seem like nothing to us today, but we should appreciate that homosexuality was outlawed in the UK,  a criminal offense punishable by gaol, until 1967, when the law was repealed. Therefore, it was more than hugely controversial to have two grown men kissing on TV (whether brothers or not) for it could have finished the careers of both Connery and Pasco, as they would have been seen as “corrupting viewers’ morals” and open to attack from those hateful right-wing moral evangelists, like Mary Whitehouse, who wielded such frightening and dangerous power back then. So, three cheers for Sir Sean and Mr Pasco.

The play Colombe was believed to have been lost or deleted, but copies of the drama turned up in the U.S. last year, after a reseracher found copies that had been sent to broadcaster National Education Television. The programs have now been returned to the British Film Institute in London, where Colombe will screened today.
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Sean Connery - The Musical


 
Via the Daily Mail
 

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Sean Connery: The Musical

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Though the impersonation is rather dreadful, it doesn’t really detract from this delightful gem of Scotland’s Greatest Export singing “S With an H” from Sean Connery: The Musical by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, the talents behind Predator - The Musical, Conan the Barbarian: The Musical and Silence: The Musical.

In Scotland, impersonating Shir Shean Connery is a national tic, one need only watch Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show to see what I mean. Indeed, when the “best wee country in the world” ™ eventually becomes independent, The Ancient Art of Shir Shean Connery Impersonating will no doubt be incorporated into the traditional Highland Games.

As for Sean Connery: The Musical, well it isn’t such a bad idea, afterall Mr Connery did have a successful though brief singing career starring in the London stage production of South Pacific and then as Michael McBride in Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
 

 
Previously on DM

Predator: The Musical


 
Bonus clip of Sean Connery singing in ‘Darby O’Gill’, after the jump…
 
With thanks to Tara McGinley
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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