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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
If video games are the ultimate expression of male fantasy wish fulfillment, then it should be no surprise that ladies man/human weapon James Bond 007 has become one of the most popular video game characters of all time. At last count, there have been as many James Bond video games made since 1983 as there have been James Bond movies made since 1963. They have gone from beep boop Atari pixelfests to big budget productions starring real James Bond actors like Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Christopher Lee, John Cleese, and even Sean Connery himself. Some of these newer games have been pretty solid, but anyone who’s ever picked up a controller will tell you that the greatest James Bond game of all time is the Nintendo 64 shooter Goldeneye64. For years, Bond fans and gamers alike have been hollering for a re-release of this classic game. Some have even taken it upon themselves to create unofficial Goldeneye ports in other game engines, such as the Half-Life total conversion Goldeneye Source.
Since Rareware, the company that developed the original N64 game no longer has the license to release James Bond titles, the original game cannot be re-released. Activision, the game company that currently holds the license, has made a bold move to satisfy Goldeneye fever by announcing that they have re-imagined the game as a modern Daniel Craig James Bond adventure. At first blush this seemed a dream come true for fans of the original, but now many gamers and Bond fans are starting to express reservations. The 2004’s Goldeneye sequel Goldeneye: Rogue Agent was one of the most disappointing Bond games in years. Also, Activision’s track record with the James Bond license is iffy. They’ve only released one Bond game, Quantum of Solace, which displayed little panache or innovation. Plus, the new Goldeneye’s Wii exclusivity severely limits the game’s graphical potential. Early screenshots look dark and blocky. Of course, we can’t fairly judge whether the game lives up to its lofted name until we got some nunchucks in our hands and try it out. In the meantime let’s brush up on our James Bond video game history!
The 007 brand is one of the most coveted licenses in the industry. As such, the right to produce James Bond games has switched hands many times over the years. The first firm to hold the license was gaming powerhouse Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers gave 007 his video game debut in 1983’s James Bond 007, a sidescroller for early consoles and computers such as the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. Domark continued with a line of action games based on James Bond movie titles throughout the rest of the 1980s. Many of these games featured a mix of shooting and driving levels, a tradition which would continue in many subsequent Bond games. Domark’s 007 swan song was the polished platformer James Bond the Duel, a challenging game with a rad soundtrack, a primitive cover system, and character animation that captured Bond’s style fairly well. In the early 90s, the point click graphic adventure Operation Stealth was adapted into the 007 game James Bond: The Stealth Affair. With the exception of some Eurocom James Bond Jr. platformers, 007 remained dormant as a video game character for much of the 90s.
The 90s were an even tougher time for Bond fans movie fans. For six years, moviegoers had gone without a James Bond movie adventure. But when James Bond made his cinematic comeback with 1995’s blockbuster Goldeneye, its video game counterpart changed the industry forever. Until Goldeneye 64‘s release in 1997, PCs were the primary platform for first person shooters. This precedent was established by the enormous, genre-defining success of iD software’s Doom in the early-nineties. Multiplayer was only possible over dial-up internet or a local area connection. The popularity of Goldeneye’s four-player split-screen local gameplay shifted that paradigm for a generation. Now the most popular first person shooters are console games such as the Halo and Gears of War titles.
Rareware went on to develop Perfect Dark, and handed the James Bond license off to Electronic Arts. For years, EA tried to recapture the success of the original Goldeneye with a slew of James Bond first person shooters. Like Star Trek flicks, these games were good every other time. Their first, The World is Not Enough, was a decent clone of Goldeneye 64. Their next, Agent Under Fire was the first game to take advantage of the Playstation 2, but failed to capture the Bond feel. Nightfire remedied that problem, and boasted the most fleshed out original Bond storyline of any game until that point. The PS2 version featured some solid driving missions, the levels were sprawling and detailed, and the weaponry was varied and realistic. It was also the first Bond game to feature a cinematic title sequence with an original song. Unfortunately, EA’s next and final foray into the FPS Bond game was the afore-mentioned Goldeneye: Rogue Agent disappointment. In the game you play a former M16 agent with a golden eye who teams up with Bond’s old foe Goldfinger. It was as stupid as it sounds.
After the Rogue Agent let-down, EA returned to the drawing board and crafted two of the most epic Bond games ever, Everything or Nothing and From Russia With Love. The engine used in both games was an innovative third-person cover system coupled with a smooth hand-to-hand combat system. For their time, the production values really shined. The games featured photorealistic recreations of James Bond, Pierce Brosnan in Everything or Nothing and Sean Connery in From Russia With Love. From then the torch was past to Activision, who released Quantum of Solace on XBox360 and Playstation and are currently working on a new game with an original storyline: Blood Stone. Will Activision reactivate the success of the original Goldeneye, or will it prove a disappointment? No matter how the new game turns out, one can only hope that the original version will one day see the light of day once more.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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 am (not) George Lazenby.