Thursday, 27 September 2012


Nobody does it better... The world of 007 movies explored in the lavish new book, JAMES BOND: 50 YEARS OF MOVIE POSTERS. Images: DANJAQ, LLC and UNITED ARTISTS CORPORATION. All Rights reserved\ JAMES BOND 50 YEARS OF MOVIE POSTERS.


Written by Alistair Dougall

Published by DK, priced £35.00

Reviewed by Scott Weller

“James Bond, his code 007. The double "0" means he has a license to kill when he chooses ... where he chooses... whom he chooses...”

Dr. No movie poster tagline - 1962

You never forget your first BOND, be it Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or any of the six actors to have portrayed Ian Fleming’s iconic superspy. You also never forget the first time you went to the cinema to see that premiere film of your movie going life (for me, it was The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, coming into Streatham Odeon just in time to see the incredible finale to the pre-titles sequence, with the famous Union Jack parachute!). Nor, most importantly, do you forget the glorious and exciting movie poster heralding its arrival. That spectacular preview of the super glamorous girls, gadgets, locations and super baddies that Bond will face in front of your visual senses for the next two hours of glorious screen time.

And it’s those all-important posters, over 22 films and 50 golden years-where has the time gone?-that are celebrated in DORLING KINDERSLEY’s wonderful new compilation tribute book, which is also a unique perspective on this timeless and innovative work realised by the talented artists who have boldly promoted James Bond’s adventures over that time: an important part of his movie consciousness, second only to the lead actor, in bringing us an all-important taster of what each movie promises: the masses of excitement, danger, glamour and big budget action you expect and want to see in a Bond film. And when such Bond posters are done well, they truly live forever.

With a noteworthy introduction and consultant editing by modern Bond series Production Designer Dennis Gassner, currently bringing his visual flourishes to the 23rd film of the franchise: the late October released Skyfall, this big size coffee table book is comfortably written by Alastair Dougall, author of the previous THE BOOK OF BOND, and a man clearly enjoying his work (the lucky bugger!) charting the history of BOND movies and their iconography through its impressive artistic dynasty. Here is a truly wonderful time capsule of the way Bond and his iconic friends and enemies have appeared, in a beautiful compilation work of rare and exciting material from DORLING KINDERSLEY that surely captures the mood and flavour of the films, and the eras they were made, as well as looking at the way these created posters followed industry trends but also set new trends and standards of their own when presenting their gifts to hungry world pop-culture loving audiences…
The film that started it all in 1962: DR. NO. Art by Mitchell Hooks.

The best and iconic era of the Bond movie series-the sixties- is certainly the finest part of the book. The era which put it all on the map: blasting us with all the incredible things that Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, a master writer of suspense and tight, efficient prose, brought out from his imagination and into the book run, which became evocatively addictive on the printed page to readers and eventually made into a fantastic cinematic reality, with a lead actor in the role-milkman turned actor Sean Connery- who positively exuded confidence, sex appeal and danger in equal measure, who would change the course of leading British men in movies forever. The one true Bond who started it all, part of a franchise start giving audiences a welcome breath of fresh air in the escapism stakes, as the worlds populace were starting a bold new early 1960’s life of recovery from the horrors and destruction post World War II. BOND would be a crucial trend-setter and audience winning blockbuster tradition. A film series starting its life that was considered quite risqué and adult at the time, and generally not recommended for children.
Lively and dramatic Japanese photo montage poster for 1963's FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

And it’s here that the posters of this glorious sixties BOND era come into their own and are the ones probably the most remembered and loved of all (backed up with some gloriously hyperbolic, often inventive tag lines), containing all the aforementioned sophistication, the international jet set flavouring (before the era gave way to the seventies and the advent of the package holiday, which well and truly killed off the rarity, glamour and romanticism of being abroad once and for all!), action, danger, and the intriguing iconic form of Bond, James Bond himself- with his all-possessing  license to kill. And let’s not forget the incredibly beautiful-nay stunning!- women accompanying him in his adventures (Girls, Girls, Girls! as such tag lines would proclaim- you’d think that there had never been any women on the planet before the arrival of the Bond films the way that the posters and movie trailers of the early films sensationalise them! And yet another all-important reminder of the franchises enduring success-today we really don’t appreciate or truly recognise how provocative these films were at the time and just what a sexy and female empowering moment in screen history it was when Ursula Andress first came out of the clear-blue Jamaican sea in her white bikini for Dr. No, back in 1962.)
The BOND franchise becomes iconic with 1964's GOLDFINGER. French poster art by Jean Mascii. 
Bond and beyond. Cool art for 1967's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE by Robert McGinnis. Note the super logo design.

As the ever escalating and larger than life plots to blackmail or destroy the world materialised, the seventies era that followed Connery’s eventual and much-missed departure may have lacked the earlier suspense and dark hearted qualities of earlier films, especially with Fleming’s key books now covered, but the sense of fun and entertainment for the franchise persisted through Roger Moore’s amiable inherited personification, a distinct counter-balance to Connery’s performance, of which the franchise around him was hyping ever further the traditional elements that had made prior BOND films such a success, along with More’s trademark raised eyebrow which brought the series into a fun if not quite as remarkable new era. There would also be a more obvious following of current box office trends (Blaxploitation, Kung-Fu and STAR WARS) and bigger budget gimmickry that would become indicative of his era, all well represented in the various poster art, of which the actor would eventually would find his feet in the role and carve out his own unique interpretation/identity to Bond from the epic The Spy Who Loved Me onwards, as he and the producers made the series a little less adult and more family friendly orientated.

One of the intriguing UK one sheet concepts for Roger Moore's last 007 outing: A VIEW TO A KILL. Art by Vic Fair.

Seven films and a long stint in the role got the better of a slightly older looking Moore as he made his last two films within the more somber and ultra-serious eighties- where our hero was threatened by the birth of big-time Hollywood rivals like John Mcclane and Indiana Jones, but eventually our British Agent outlasted and outdistanced such young pretenders. With Moore gone, the shift on Bond’s character veered back to the more serious, away from the light-hearted, as the first attempt by Timothy Dalton and the Broccoli film-making empire got underway to bring the film series back down to earth with a new and more realistic attitude-the Bond that bleeds when hurt-working within a more fractured world of grey shaded and complex villainy, in a post AIDS society where our hero doesn’t sleep around as much…the horror!

The photoshop poster era begins in 1989 with Timothy Dalton's LICENCE TO KILL.

Plasma-Bond! Exciting Japanese poster art for Pierce Brosnan's second 007 film: TOMORROW NEVER DIES. 

Another important ingredient of the Bond era also sadly started to diminish with Dalton’s debut, The Living Daylights-the first of sadly only two films for the splendid actor (his rein ended due to seemingly constant legal/financial problems involving series backers MGM)- notably with the franchises last great piece of stirring and exciting posters art, as the late eighties and beyond gave way to the now traditional and often much hated photo shopped publicity or stills images cobbled together as marketing campaigns by film companies across the world, robbing us of a lot of artistic creativity in many respects (despite the new talents using this handy technology), and saving them thousands of pound in commissioning artists, within a newly evolved entertainment world where the actors and their publicists would also have more of a say in what they wanted released and how they thought their clients should be portrayed, demonstrated with the era belonging to the hybrid Connery/Moore antics of Pierce Brosnan’s well received, sometimes very cool, portrayal of Bond in the late nineties to early noughties, to the gritty modern blonde Bond, Daniel Craig, who himself had allegedly been a key player in the formation of the successful publicity campaign for his box office gold first adventure in Casino Royale of 2006- a new approach taken so as to get away from the kind of spoofing the series had suffered from the likes of the Austin Powers comedies of the early 2000’s. In general, Craig’s brave new world for Bond is sometimes bleak and generally realistic, perhaps too much for some general audiences to take in, but it still retains much of the core qualities of old-style Bond, especially in its pulse pounding action and lead star charisma. In my book, Craig is officially the best Bond since Connery. His second film’s poster art, Quantum of Solace, continues the work set down by Casino: a more edgy and stylish design in the face of competitive action franchises…

"This never happened to the other fella..." A new Bond is about to be unveiled in 1969's ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. 

The singular one-off charms of George Lazenby in the finest onscreen adaptation of an original Ian Fleming novel: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, directed with adrenaline verve by Peter Hunt, also shouldn’t be overlooked. His sadly one-film poster campaign plays on the importance of a new Bond after the charisma of Connery, with an interesting aura of Who will be next to play the part? about it, as well as making the most of it’s exciting action and supporting cast (notably the gorgeous Mrs. Bond, as played with style by Diana Rigg).

Going beyond, sometime far, far beyond Bond, even the colourful antics of 1967 spoof Casino Royale, only “suggested by the Ian Fleming novel", with David Niven and a multitude of Bonds starring, gets a look-in too. Suffice to say the artwork and promotional materials are nice, but that’s one section I looked through very quickly. Colourfully daft, but fascinating nonetheless. Also present is Connery’s unofficial return to the role in Never Say Never Again-the film that should have been a classic but sadly isn’t!

Alongside the main displayed art, there’s also some great teaser posters: I particularly loved The Man with the Golden Gun’s past and future villains intro, as well as the stylized white tuxedoed Roger Moore with Grace Jones as May Day from A View to a Kill. And the brilliant action-packed artistry for The Living Daylights by Brian Bysouth. The imagination behind the unused poster concept art is especially intriguing whenever there's a relatively new Bond, as seen with License Revoked: the original title for Dalton’s second and last film, Licence to Kill, pulled because American marketing teams were worried that people wouldn't know what revoked meant!

Some interesting notes accompany certain poster images, their differences and why some territories have changes made or adopt different poster concepts altogether. It’s very noticeable how, with very rare exceptions, the many and varied international poster campaigns for the movies get smaller as the years go on-the incredible wealth of posters within the Connery years giving way to the aforementioned smaller, more directed worldwide campaigns by Craig’s era. The book also has some unused poster concept pieces from across all the Bond eras (including some noteworthy material for George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton’s generally under appreciated era-whose attempts to get the series back to that more ground-breaking Fleming style of storytelling territory met with mixed results in the late-eighties, but became a fine template adapted with great success later on for both Brosnan and Craig).

One thing that remains undiminished throughout the book are the contributions made by those singular and incredible artists (as well as the behind the scenes marketing teams and designers working with them, who also finally get their deserved credits). These are the talents who have made such a formidable and history making whole of both James Bond and film history. For me, it’s a thrill looking at such terrific pieces from the likes of premiere poster illustrator Mitchell Hooks, Robert McGinnis, Frank McCarthy, Bob Peak and Dan Goozee (whose work on the later Roger Moore films is superb!).

Adding to the anniversary, lobby cards and other poster paraphernalia used in cinemas over the years also get their showcase. But it’s a shame that some of the various video covers and DVD sleeve art/ photo composite work from the last twenty years or so couldn’t also have been included for completions sake.

Coming soon...Daniel Craig returns in SKYFALL. Image: SONY/MGM.

Ending bang up to date with the franchise’s eagerly awaited Skyfall, though, at the time of printing, it only had the teaser poster to put in its pages (but from a key scene in the film, apparently), the book has a few little niggles on dates here and there, plus a couple of errors that should have been rectified before it went to press (particularly in the section for Connery’s Thunderball), but that shouldn’t stop fans from enjoying this colourful and wondrous trip down memory lane. Savour the nostalgia and talent on display with this tome, from a golden age of stunning and representative illustrative art within the movie poster world that’s now sadly over.

Best read with some of John Barry’s classic Bond scores playing in the background for even greater effect, JAMES BOND: 50 YEARS OF MOVIE POSTERS, housed within a beautiful outside slipcase box featuring art from Dr. No and Octopussy, and incorporating two lovely rare poster art card prints, will make a fine icon for your coffee table/shelf and be appreciated by film historians and BOND fans for a long time to come: a must-have purchase where 007 will remain at an all time high with followers around the world enjoying not only his past but also eagerly awaiting every new adventure to come.

Cue that moving gun barrel…

KOOL TV RATING: A hitting the target 4.5 out of 5

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