The James Bond Gunbarrel

Despite a variety of interpretations of James Bond both in terms of tone and style, there are certain cinematic motifs which tie together even the most diametrically opposed films in the canon. Whether it’s a hard-boiled, down-to-earth entry like From Russia With Love or a comic-book fantasy adventure like Moonraker, they all contain certain visual, thematic and musical cues which remind you that we’re playing in the same action-packed sandbox. The most obvious of these motifs is arguably the “Gunbarrel Opening” which depicts Agent 007 entering to the James Bond theme, framed by a stylized gunbarrel, then turning to the camera and firing directly at the screen which quickly spills over with blood before disappearing. The tradition first began with the 1962 film Dr. No and until Pierce Brosnan’s swan song Die Another Day was always the first shot of the film.  

The new films starring Daniel Craig shook up a lot of things about the venerable franchise, including the style and placement of the gunbarrel. The latest 007 film Spectre prides itself on honoring many of the franchise’s most cherished traditions, some of which we haven’t seen for a while thanks to Austin Powers and legal issues. While opinion varies among critics and fans as whether these references represent a return to form for the series or simply patronizing fan service, one thing is clear: It’s good to see the gun barrel return to its proper home at the beginning of the film. So before you head off to the theaters to catch Spectre, take a trip down memory lane and see how this iconic cinematic motif has evolved over the last five decades.

Bob Simmons

The original gunbarrel in Dr. No is the only in the series not to feature the actual actor playing James Bond. In this case, stunt coordinator Bob Simmons played the part. It’s remarkable how close subsequent films stayed to the format established here, the obvious exceptions being the titles which appear before the gunbarrel as well as the strange radar sound cue.

The Simmons footage was used for the next two films, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, although the radar sound was removed as were the credits.

Sean Connery

The fourth Bond film was the first to be shot in the Panavision format, forcing the filmmakers to reshoot the gunbarrel for the first time to accommodate the new widescreen format. This time the gunbarrel actually featured Sean Connery, although his stance appears a bit wobbly, and the sequence lacks the punch of the original footage. The footage was rescored and reused for the next Bond You Only Live Twice.

Lazenby

Actor George Lazenby enjoyed a one-film stint as the legendary secret agent and while many deride his performance as amatuerish, most hard-core Bond fans know that this is one of the strongest films in the series. The gunbarrell of this film however leaves much to be desired, due to unwelcome return of the producer credits, a weird “drop to one knee” performance from Lazenby and a jarring moment when Bond continues to walk after the gunbarrel has stopped moving, the only time this will occur in the series.

The Shiny Gunbarrel

Connery returned for one more film in the official series and the Panavision footage from Thunderball was reused, although a bizarre shiny effect was used to spice up the sequence for the 1970s. It doesn’t help.

Roger Moore

When Roger Moore was cast as the third James Bond, a new gunbarrel was filmed featuring the actor. This is the first time Bond appears in the gunbarrel without a hat, demonstrating the changing style from the 1960s into the 1970s. The sequence is scored by Beatles producer George Martin, who added some disco flair to the arrangement. The footage was reused in The Man With the Golden Gun with more traditional music by John Barry.

With 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, the filmmakers returned to the Panavision format and the gunbarrel was reshot with Moore. The result is one of the strongest gunbarrels in the series, featuring a confident stride from Moore and a dynamic pose at the end. This footage was rescored and reused for the remaining Moore films despite the fact that the bell bottoms he wears were out of style by the time his stint as 007 ended in 1985. The Panavision Moore gunbarrel also has the distinction of being scored by the largest variety of composers, Marvin Hamlisch, John Barry and Bill Conti.

Timothy Dalton

Dalton is an oft-overlooked Bond actor but his performances his two 007 films are extremely strong, including his gunbarrel. Like his interpretation of the Bond character, his stride and pose are stark, bold and effective.

Pierce Brosnan

Brosnan’s performance in the gunbarrel sequence is one of the least energetic but it matches the actor’s ultra-cool, suave interpretation of the character. The barrel itself looks better than ever, for the first time it seems like an actual dynamic object with physical properties rather than a two-dimensional image.

The footage was rescored and reused for each of his four films but the last entry, Die Another Day added a CGI bullet zooming at the camera. Did the filmmakers think audiences didn’t understand what was happening in this sequence after 40 years?

Daniel Craig

Craig’s first Bond film was a true reboot, explaining the origin of many of Bond’s most memorable trademarks. The movie even explains the backstory of the gunbarrel itself for the first time! Turns out, the gunbarrel represents James Bond’s first kill as a secret agent. The gunbarrel itself was again redesigned and the blood was given a more three-dimensional appearance. This is the first time that the gunbarrel did not start the film and the first time it was part of the story.

Quantum of Solace’s gunbarrel is more traditional, even though it is placed at the end of the film and bleeds into the title for some reason.

Skyfall also features a gunbarrel at the end of the film rather than the beggining.

Want to see the gunbarrel finally return to its proper place at the beginning of the film? Then head out to see the newest entry in the series, Spectre.

Villians Always Take the Fall

Let’s face it, there is nothing more satisfying than watching a film’s villain fall to their death. In the history of cinema, villians have fallen off cliffs, skyscrapers, bridges, space stations, radar dishes, volcanoes and all sorts of other crazy shit. Throughout the years, falling to your death special effects have advanced significantly. In the days of Alfred Hitchcock, falling death effects were achieved with a clever mix of matte paintings, rear projection shots, dummies, and clever editing. These days chroma key technology, computer generated “digital doubles” and other technological advancements have refined movie falling death scenes to a fine art form. But with so many death falls, it’s hard to sort out the best. Here’s a special guide to

The Top 5 Bad Guy Death Falls

5. Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon in Star Trek III

Captain James T. Kirk has had a bad day. His ship is destroyed, his son is dead, and his best friends have literally lost their minds. So when Klingon Captain Christopher Llyod tries to pull him into a huge pit of lava, he has no choice but to face kick him to his death. “I…have had enough…of YOU!!!”

4. 006 in Goldeneye

Alec Trevelyn and James Bond were once best friends—good old 006 and 007. But when Alec decides to  become an evil supervillian, 007 has no choice but to drop him off a radar dish and watch him go splat.

3. Emperoror Palpatine

The evilest dude in the entire galaxy gets thrown down an elevator by his own apprentice, Darth Vader.

2. Fry in Saboteur

Hitchcock was the pioneer of the bad guy death fall. The combination of rear projection and matte shots used to produce the effect of the film’s villain tumbling from the Statue of Liberty is still impressive thanks to HIitchock’s nailbiting pacing. View a clip here.

1. Alan Rickman in Die Hard

Hans Gruber’s fall from Nakatomi Plaza at the climax of Die Hard is perhaps the  seminal blue screen bad guy death. Couldn’t find a good clip of it on the net, but it’s on TV all the time and always in the Wal Mart DVD bargain bin.

So that’s my top five. What are yours? Feel free to flame on mine.

Licensed to Kill (in the comedy sense of the word):

The Top Ten James Bond Parodies of All Freaking Time

With the American release of the new OSS 117 film (a series of French spy spoofs), and the burgeoning popularity of F/X’s animated comedy Archer, the secret agent parody genre is seeing a bit of resurgence. In accordance with this exciting new development, I have listed here, for your intellectual enrichment, the top ten James Bond parodies of all time.

10. The Scorpio Episode of The Simpsons

It seemed as though Homer Simpson had finally found a boss less evil than Mr. Burns. But it turns out that the charming and generous Hank Scorpio was actually a far greater super-villain, replete with his own secret agent nemesis, “Mr. Bunt.”

Hank Scropio VS. Mr. Bunt

9. No One Lives Forever (it’s a video game)

I never knew shooting guys in fez’s could be so fun until I played this swinging video game and it’s awesome sequel.

I don't really remember this weird part, but boy this game sure is funny!

8. What’s Up Tiger Lily?

Woody Allen dubs funny dialogue over an actual Japanese spy movie—sort of Mystery Science Theater meets racism.

7. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

I’m just going to put pictures from actual James Bond movies and pretend I thought they were from Austin Powers. That’s how spot on they nailed 007 in the first one.

Yeah Baby!
Throw me a fricking bone.

Just puttin' this in for no reason.

6. For British Eyes Only

Even though Charlize Theron’s character was an MRF (Mentally Retarded Female) she was still more intelligent than most James Bond leading ladies in the “For British Eyes Only” story arc of Arrested Development.

5. Archer

I’m sure Archer will climb even higher on the ranking as this fricking awesome new show continues to dominate your shit.

4. Our Man Flint

Of all the 007 knockoffs, spoofs, and parodies that were released in the spymania of the mid-sixties, this is the only one that kinda, sorta, almost holds up.

Flint kicks a guy in the face. Did this really need a caption?

3. Get Smart! (the show)

Not the movie. I’ll put that on another list. A list of things that are stupid.

2. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

If you squint your eyes and laugh hard enough, it almost looks like this movie stars Sean Connery. Spot fucking on.

1. Any James Bond Movie With Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore

That’s right, when it comes to parodying James Bond, nobody does it better than the real James Bond himself, who was a parody of himself for like, thirty years or something. Christopher Walken wrestling with Grace Jones? A laser battle in space? Jaws turns good? An invisible car? Really? An invisible car. For chrissakes.

Roger Moore, being an old douche.

Bourne, James Bourne?

scubOkay, I’m finally going to wrangle with a ridiculous assertion that critics have been floating lately: that the newly re-booted James Bond franchise is in some way a Jason Bourne clone. C’mon, that’s like saying Coke is a just a clone of Pepsi, or that the State of California is a rip-off of Disney’s California adventure. The reason why the first Bourne film was so refreshing was that it reminded people of the OLD JAMES BOND! Bond was engaging in ruthless hand to hand combat decades before Mr. Bourne was a twinkling in Robert Ludlum’s eye. Bond went rogue decades before Mr. Bourne hit the silver screen. Bond was seeking revenge for the death of his girlfriend when Matt Damon was in diapers.

The Bourne movies served as a catalyst for returning the Bond franchise to its roots, and I praise them for that. The Bond producers reacted to the Bourne movies in the same way they did to their competitors during the “spymania” of the 1960s: They sized up the competition and trounced them.

As for these critics deriding Bond for being a Bourne clone, I am reminded of an American tourist I overheard while visiting the French monastery of Mont-Saint Michel. Looking at the beautiful architecture of the centuries-old structure she commented “It looks just like Disneyland!”

New Bond is Dope

007musical Totally dope. True its source material, The Quantum of Solace is rugged yet refined, brutal but tender, and both funny and tragic. It’s also balls to the wall bad ass. Daniel Craig’s sophomore outing as the iconic secret agent James Bond 007 is certainly not as groundbreaking as Casino Royale, which took the geriatric franchise back to it’s roots, but it’s a leaner, meaner, more functional spy caper. The last film had a lot of groundwork to do, which made it a bit clunky and overlong. Clocking in at an hour and forty-five minutes, this latest Bond is certainly the most efficient in the series. In this way, Quantum benefits from the best parts of the last film, and solves some of its problems. All in all, I was highly satisfied. Keep ’em coming.

I am (not) George Lazenby

It started as a petty prank, as so many things on the Internet do. I had missed a question on a Facebook quiz, the subject of which was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only James Bond film to star Australian actor George Lazenby as the intrepid agent 007. The question was about where a certain Bond girl, Ruby Bartlett was born. Easy…Lancashire.

Wrong. But how could I be? I own that movie! I’ve seen it more times than I’ve taken a crap! Enraged, I emailed the author of the quiz:

“Ruby Bartlett is from Lancashire dumbnutz!”

I received a response:

“She’s from MORECAMBE which is IN Lancashire. Now, what’s that Yank expression, oh yes…dumbass.”

Needless to say, I’ve never been more fucking pissed in my life. Writing this now, I’m fucking pissed. If I ever care to read this after I post it, I will be fucking pissed. This snooty British FUCK thinks he’s a better Bond fan than me just because I fell for some trick question. I mean, who cares about English geography anyway? The whole country is so small it could fit in Delaware’s butthole.

I was hungry for revenge. Bloodthirsty. But what could I do with only Facebook at my fingertips? I logged out and clicked to sign up for a new account.

Name: George Lazenby
Network: Australia
Status: Bond, James Bond.

Presto, I was, for all Facebook purposes, George Lazenby. I had his face, his name, and the ability to poke people. Mwuhahahaha! First and last order of business: send a message to that British prick.

Subj: Great Quiz!

Not. You are a supreme bag of douche. As someone who fucked both Ruby Bartlett AND your mom let me say: Suck my Octoballs Thunderpussy!

Sincerely,
George

I’ve never laughed so hard at my own shit. Thinking about it now, I’m laughing. My new e-enemy had a very thoughtful comeback: “Cock!” Wow, what a writer. The next Ian Fleming, rocking the qwertyboard.

So I was satisfied. I told my buddies about it, had a few laughs, and that was the end of it. Or so I thought. Out of the blue, people started friend requesting me…I mean George. So I accepted. I figured people realized this was a joke and wanted in on the fun. And then they started messaging me, telling me what an honor it was to be friends with George Lazenby.

The fans poured their hearts out about what an impact George’s performance had on them, and how much they admired him. I’d respond with a pleasant, but patronizing “Thanks, mate.” I was so freaked out by this outpouring of e-love for George Lazenby that it took me about two hours to compose that stupid message. I debated for a good forty-five minutes over whether the “mate” was too Australian or just Australian enough.

And then I had my first scare. One of my…er…George’s friends sent a message about coming to a book signing to meet me…er…George. I freaked out. What happens if this guy starts babbling about Facebook at the signing and George is like “I don’t have a Facebook account, mate!” and then Scotland Yard hunts me down and I get extradited to England and sent to the Tower of London for identity fraud? I’d be the black sheep of Bondage! No self-respecting Bond fan would even play a round of GoldenEye64 with me!

Terrified, I logged into my George account the day after the signing. I thought this guy was gonna rail on me for not being the real George. But he didn’t. He posted up a picture of him shaking hands with George and tagged me in it! He messaged me to tell me what a great honor it was to meet me. Phew. Talk about a close one. I made a comment on the photo: “Handsome Chaps.”

My Facebook fraud had brushed against reality. This guy knew the real George Lazenby and the Facebook George Lazenby and hadn’t noticed a thing. And then I started thinking, do these people really think I’m George Lazenby?

I mean, I’m friends with super-hot golfer Natalie Gulbis on Myspace but I know it’s not actually her. It’s just some poor, bored, loser. Like me.

Maybe my Facebook George is like Santa. All signs point to bullshit, but people still want to believe. Was I doing my fellow Bond fans a great service, or was I playing them for fools? I couldn’t decide. Every time George made a new friend, or someone sent him a heartwarming message, I considered shutting down my account. But I couldn’t bring myself to it. People wanted to shower George Lazenby with love and admiration, and who was I to stop them?

And then the real George was in the news. Divorce. A nasty one. The support came rushing in. People from all over the world were offering their kindest thoughts and messages of hope. Our friend from the book signing sent the longest and most thoughtful. He told of his own personal experience going through a divorce, and the wounds it had caused. He opened his heart and soul to George Lazenby. It was the most wonderful letter I’d ever received, and I felt like a sneaky little bastard reading it. I only wished that I could some how deliver it to George, and erase my memory of it. I’m sorry Mr. Lazenby. And my sincerest apologies to the loyal friend you don’t know you have.

So I’m turning myself in.
I confess.
I am (not) George Lazenby.