There are a handful of film genres that have over the years given us the most outstanding and memorable musical scores. One such genre is the Spy or secret agent genre of movies. Of, course straight away everyone will say James Bond and John Barry, and they would be right to single these out and put them at the pinnacle of music to spy by. But yes, there is a but as per usual, what else do you expect this is MMI. I thought that I would look at spy or secret agent movies that were doing the rounds in the 1960, s and yes, I will be including James Bond but later. Let us go first to a handful of movies that were probably produced in the mid to late 1960’s to cash in on the success of 007, in fact some of them even included 007 or a variant of it in their titles.
These were Italian and French productions, and say what you like about European filmmakers, they certainly were not frightened to take on a genre and try to emulate it and sometimes even improve upon it. Like the Italians did with the western genre.
Italian directors and producers could see an opportunity with the spy genre, as could the French and to a degree the German film industry, the success of 007 around the world was something that they wanted to have a slice of, and thus films such as, AGENTE 077 D’ALL ORIENTE CON FURORE, MISSION MORTE MOLO 83, NIENTE ROSE PER OSS 117, BANCO E BANGCOCK AGENTE OSS 117, SCACCO INTERNAZIONALE, F.B.I. OPERAZIONE PAKISTAN, FBI OPERAZIONE VIPERA GIALLA and LA SPIE UCCIDONO A BEIRUT (Secret Agent Fireball), to name but a few started to appear.
Composers in Italy such as Francesco De Masi, Berto Pisano, Piero Piccioni, Carlo Savina, Bruno Nicolai, Carlo Rustichelli and many more, began to write atmospheric and classy scores for the Euro Spy genre and in France Michel Magne to was active in this area, they provided these stories of espionage, deceit and life in the fast and dangerous lane with scores that were not only serviceable and supportive but soundtracks that contained upbeat and infectious sounds, that incorporated the dramatic and symphonic and fused these with jazz and big band styles, to create a style that was all on its own, in fact I have to remark that the style achieved, did not attempt to mimic the bombastic sound that John Barry had invented for James Bond.
Instead it was more of an easy listening or popular music style that was employed, the composers especially in Italy fashioning a steamy and sensual audio background that had the ability to erupt into an action cue at the drop of a hat. It’s a funny thing, because the Italian and French composers who worked on the Euro spy genre, were to in the end influence later movies that were in the genre, probably more so than the Bond scores. The jazzy and laid-back sounds became synonymous with the spy and were just as much a part of his secret armoury and box of tricks as the explosive device that was hidden in his tie pin or the heel of his shoe.
The style that many Italian composers employed on Spy movies, was inventive, but probably not as innovative as the scores many of them created for the Italian western, Carlo Savina’s score for the 1965 production, LA SPIE UCCIDONO A BEIRUT (Secret Agent Fireball), was a pleasant one, and for me was more of a lounge/jazz music album as opposed to being a dramatic score for a movie. The composer utilising organ, sultry saxophone, breathy and suggestive woodwinds, muted trumpet and classy sounding clarinet that at times was accompanied by a Smokey and seductive piano solo. The more dramatic cues included subtle use of woodwind, organ stabs or chilling organ chords, that were all underlined by simmering bongo punctuation, that added jus the right amount of apprehension to the proceedings.
There was I thought also a gentle nod to the sound and style of fellow Italian composer Francesco de Masi, especially in the few tense cues that appear. Savina, also has another musical mood that crops up here and ther within the score, but this in my opinion is more akin to a comedy than a spy story. But saying this the work is an enjoyable listen and on seeing sections of the movie, the score supported and gave the film a greater presence, making a film that was not that good a little more palatable.
There were also a handful of movies that would contain mixed genres and we would have a spy scenario encroaching upon a romantic tale or even a heist caper that sometimes included a secret agent, so there were a number of blurred borderlines between the spy, crime, cop capers, and these scenarios too seeped into some of the Giallo movies that were produced, many cinema goers had the attitude the more the merrier, but at times the lines between genres became just too blurry and this often led to confusion, Confused? Yes? Ok, lets head back to the spy collective of films shall we, but still concentrating upon non-Bond, (its ok I will get to him soon enough). SCACCO INTERNATIONAL, was an interesting movie, but the score by Carlo Rustichelli, I have always thought was far more interesting and appealing, the soundtrack is a mixture of what I suppose we could categorise ad Italian or Roman/Neopolitan sounding themes, that are pleasant enough, and even at times become grandiose and luxurious in their sound and performance. SCACCO INTERNAZIONALE or THE LAST CHANCE as it was known outside of Italy.
The film featured Tab Hunter and Michael Rennie and took its inspiration from the 007 films. The score is typically Rustichelli, containing many of the composer’s little quirks of orchestration and musical nuances such as organ, big band jazz sound and a more classical orientated dramatic symphonic approach, all of which worked on their own levels and together when the Maestro employed them simultaneously. Many of the score’s cues can I suppose be referred to as exotica as in the style that is employed. But there are some nice little touches as in upbeat passages and even a short lived but pompous march of sorts that the composer utilises to great effect.
This in my opinion is probably one of the composers better scores from this period in his career, and within this genre of film. The use of a Smokey and even sleazy breathy woods and vibes sets the scene perfectly with Rustichelli building on this with his inclusion of muted trombones, trumpets and jazz bass. The LP contained just eight tracks, as it was one of the famous CAM labels double soundtrack releases. In 2018 BEAT records Italy re-issued the soundtrack in full the compact disc containing a staggering thirty-three tracks, eight of which are from the original LP masters. The music is wonderfully melodic and entertaining with several polished piano solos that stand out throughout the recording, plus there are the familiar Rustichelli trademarks, such as little organ nuance’s, and classical slanted strings, the composer using a core catchy theme as the foundation for the remainder of the score.
AGENTE 077 DALL’ORIENTE CON FURORE, was an earlier Italian attempt to emulate the 007 films, released in 1965 it contained a score by Maestro Piero Piccioni, now when we mention the name of Piccioni, it normally goes hand in hand with a soundtrack that is jazz orientated. And yes this is no exception, now I have to say I am no big fan of jazz in any way form or whatever, but it’s a funny thing when it is utilised well in film I have to admit that it takes on a different persona, and becomes not only more appealing but also more dramatic. Piccioni worked on several spy movies, and each project contains an accomplished and entertaining soundtrack. The composer in interview told me that he looked upon jazz music as “PURE” music, it was music that came from the soul and at times although sections of scores could be improvised they still supported the action on screen and had a life away from the images and storylines unfolding on the screen. Piccioni also would incorporate jazz sounds and colours into other genres, his western scores for example are often tinged with jazz textures, and although one would thnk that the western and jazz were very unlikely bed fellows, it was a fusion that worked.
Composer Francesco de Masi is a well known name within the Italian film music fraternity, like so many other Italian Maestro’s he scored many Italian made westerns, and was also active in spy and cop genres, But there are so many too choose from it would be difficult to name one or two as being outstanding, F.B.I. OPERAZIONE PAKISTAN for example, released in 1966. The central theme appears throughout and the composer arranges and orchestrates it a vibrant and fresh fashion on each outing, thus giving it a greater appeal.
The score for F.B.I. OPERAZIONE PAKISTAN is I think somewhat overlooked, why? I am not sure, maybe because at the time of the film’s release the Italian westerns popularity was increasing and audiences were distracted, or maybe the film was not distributed that widely. Either way it is a gem of a score, and one that if you have never heard it will be a surprising and pleasing discovery. It contains many of De Masi’s musical trademarks, and alongside these the composer utilises Sitar in places, which is performed by his long-term collaborator and friend Alessandro Alessandroni. The soundtrack also relies upon some interesting and striking percussive elements, which the composer brings to the forefront in some of the more dramatic scenes. De Masi combines all these elements and adds to them more conventional musical components, electric guitar, woodwind, vibes, piano and brass, admittedly at times the music is a little ethnically cliched, but this was 1965 remember. Other than this it is a good score.
Another score from an Italian production that is essentially a parody of all things 007 is, BALEARI OPERAZIONE ORO, OPERTION GOLD or BALERIC CAPER which was released in 1966. The plot involves a gem encrusted sceptre, which is discovered off the coast of the island of Ibizia, the item attracts the attention of a lot of characters that are not exactly the good guys. The groups of characters that are searching for it include, thieves, spies, international agents, and all sorts. This spy parody for me was too much slapstick and not enough suspense, but saying that the comedy did work, which makes a change for an Italian movie attempting comedy for a non-Italian audience.
The music for this enjoyable romp is courtesy of composer Benedetto Ghiglia, the Maestro scored a few westerns during the 1960’s and was known for a distinctive percussion driven sound. This is most noticeable in the scores A DOLLAR IN THE TEETH and ADIOS GRINGO, but the composer also employed a similar style within many of his non-western works.
Ghiglia is a very underatted composer, his music is inventive and certainly original, and when scoring this type of spy/heist film Ghiglia would also employ up-tempo vibes and brass, and often enhance this with a pop orientated flavour and choir. NEW YORK CHIAMA SUPERDRAGO too is a soundtrack that is a delight, also released in 1966 with Ghiglia in a more Morricone/Ortolani sounding mode, swinging sixties sounds and the inventive use of a telephone ringing used in the opening track.
Like the majority of scores from this Italian version of the genre, the music is a combination of beats, shakes and a lounge style of music, that at times moves into dramatic sequences and then returns to a jazz or big band sound.
It’s certainly more of a light-hearted score, with electric guitar, organ and sweet strings making up the man body of the work. Both films and scores are worth checking out. The plot for NEW YORK CHIAMA SUPERDRAGO, Centres on a secret agent, and his fight against an evil organisation that is determined to gain control of the world, Sounds familiar yes? The spy agent Super Dragon is called out of retirement after the death of one of his closest friends, and soon discovers that the organisation responsible for his friend’s death are also smuggling drugs which are concealed inside imported vases.
Compared with the JAMES BOND adventures that were being produced in England at the same time, many of these Italian movies paled into insignificance, when you think that this was the same year (1965) as THUNDERBALL and there had already been three major instalments of the 007 franchise as in DR NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER all these movies had scores that were filled with strong thematic qualities as composer John Barry further established himself with a special bombastic and dramatic style to accompany 007. And although many of the soundtracks for the Italian spy movies contained a certain amount of this bombastic style, there was just something about the scores for spy movies produced in Cinecitta that was not only effective in the context of the movies, but was also affecting and entertaining away form the images and scenarios that had been created by Italian, French and German filmmakers.
So, continuing with Italian productions lets turn to composer Piero Umiliani, and his score for REQUIEM FOR A SECRET AGENT, I have always regarded this as one of the composers best soundtracks and not just within the genre of the spy movie. Umiliani was well known for his love of jazz and also for the many popular songs and tunes that he composed. REQUIEM FOR A SECRET AGENT made no apologies for being a direct rip off of the James Bond movies and their successful formula, it starred Stewart Granger, Peter Van Eyke and Daniele Bianchi who had been a Bond girl in the movie FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, directed by Sergio Sollima it is probably one of the more interesting spy dramas that came out of Italy during the 1960’s. Umiliani’s score overflows with vibrant and melodic compositions, and is one of those soundtracks that one can put in the player and not have to track jump, every cue is an entertaining experience, and again it has the ability to work within the movie marvellously and also has a life all of its own as just music to be savoured and enjoyed. DON’T EVER LET ME GO is the title of the central theme from the score, and we are treated to a vocal version of this from Umiliani and Piccioni’s preferred female vocalist Lydia MacDonald. Then we come to a British comedy spy tale, which was scored by an Italian Maestro. THE SPY WITH THE COLD NOSE was released in 1966, and starred Laurence Harvey, Daliah Lavi, Lionel Jeffries and Pickles the dog. It’s a far-fetched storyline, filled with madcap situations and highly unlikely and implausible scenarios, but saying that, it’s a slice of harmless entertaining fun.
The score by Riz Ortolani is also an interesting one, bouncy, light and airy, with various themes that accompany some of the films central characters. Maybe not Oscar material but nevertheless not a soundtrack to discount completely. Ortolani was one of the few Italian composers who was fortunate enough to cross over from scoring Italian productions such as MONDO CANE and begin to work on American and British motion pictures during the 1960.s. THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE, THE GLORY GUYS and SEVENTH DAWN come to mind straight away. It was probably the early success of the composer’s collaboration with Nino Oliviero on MONDO CANE that attracted non-Italian filmmakers to him, with the song from the movie MORE selling millions of copies and being recorded by hundreds of artists.
A year earlier in 1965 the composer had penned the score for an Italian spy movie entitled BERLIN APPOINTMENT WITH THE SPIES or SPY IN YOUR EYE or BANG YOU’RE DEAD. The plot involved an important American spy who without him knowing has a miniature camera implanted in his eye and begins to photograph secret documents for the Russians, which assists them in gathering info about a new death ray that the Americans are developing. Ortolani fashioned a serviceable score for the movie, and in my opinion was more inventive and robust than a lot of the composer’s work from this period. He also scored THE TIFFANY MEMORANDUM which is worth a mention.
Ortolani was probably better known for his more romantically slanted works for the cinema and later also scored a handful of Italian made westerns such as DAY OF ANGER, he continued to work on both Italian and American and British movies, throughout his career, his score for the ultra-violent western THE HUNTING PARTY being one of his best, and still unreleased apart from the main title which was issued on a United Artists single 45 rpm. His soundtrack for Terence (DR NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THUNDERBALL) Young’s THE VALACHI PAPERS, which was issued on a Phillips LP record at the time of the films release, is also yet to have a compact disc or digital recording made available, again it is a score that is crying out to be released.
So, to American TV spy shows well, one of them at least, THE MAN FROM UNCLE began its successful TV run in 1964 just after the release of GOLDFINGER a run which lasted until 1968, and also a series of shows that spawned a handful of feature films. The infectious and now classic theme was the work of composer Jerry Goldsmith, with other composers such as Gerald Fried, Morton Stevens and Hugo Montenegro becoming involved on many of the incidental musical scores.
The adventures of UNCLE agents Solo and Kuryakin were for many essential viewings, the shows being screen in the UK on the BBC. The scores although quite upbeat and dramatic, were for the most part filled with easy listening tone poems, Montenegro had success with a few album releases of music from the series. There was also a spin off series which ran from 1966 thru to 1967 THE GIRL FROM UNCLE focused upon the missions of April Dancer (Stephanie Powers), and although not as popular as the original series was an entertaining take on the UNCLE series.
The music for the series was by a handful of respected composers and musicians, Dave Grusin and Richard Shoes being the composers who was mostly associated with the series, scoring twenty-four episodes of the show together.
The music for the series was surprisingly similar to the style of Italian composers such as Umiliani, Piccioni and Savina, with both Grusin and Shores employing a vibrant and soaring wordless female vocal on many of the tracks, and also utilising samba’s and Bossa Nova beats throughout. In fact if you were to listen to THE GIRL FROM UNCLE album which was released in 1967, and not be aware of what it was.
I think many would think it was a score for 1960’s Italian movie, the orchestration and the style is strikingly similar. I am not entirely sure if either of the composers were influenced by Italian film music composers, but the music is certainly that way inclined. The theme for the series was an arrangement of THE MAN FROM UNCLE theme, with female vocal being added to the proceedings.
Other composers associated with the series were, Jeff Alexander, Jack Marshall, Jimmie Haskell and Tony Randazzo, May I suggest you take a listen to the soundtrack album, its fantastic fun and in my humble opinion has the edge on THE MAN FROM UNCLE scores.
So maybe this was a case of the Italian composers emulating the Bond scores and then American composers being influenced by the Italian’s efforts? Did that not happen with the westerns aswell? Another popular American TV series that involved secret agents was I SPY, the series ran from 1965 thru to 1968, it starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, who play a couple of intelligence officers that pose as a tennis player and his coach to undertake secret missions around the globe, the music for the series was the work of various composers, with Earle Hague providing a Peter Gunn like theme as well as writing the scores to fifty three episodes that were filled with jazz and big band references. Other composers involved on the series included, Hugo Friedhofer who worked on twenty-six episodes, Robert Drasnin, Carl Brandt, and Van Cleave.
From the small screen back to the big screen, No. it not James Bond, just be patient please. It is however a trio of movies which featured Harry Palmer, a secret agent that is down to earth and more realistic than Bond could ever be. Michael Caine played the central character in three movies, all of which were released in the 1960’s. THE IPCRESS FILE (1965). FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1967) and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN also 1967.
The gritty world of Harry Palmer was created by author Len Deighton, and I will say here and now that if it’s a choice between Palmer and Bond then I pick Palmer every time. There is just something about the way Caine brings the character to life, right from the opening scene in THE IPCRESS FILE when Palmer is seen at his flat preparing breakfast whilst being enhanced by John Barry’s atmospheric opening titles music.
Palmer is more real than the character of James Bond as depicted by a succession of actors. John Barry’s iconic score creates a greater depth and atmosphere to an already interesting and thought-provoking movie.
Whereas in Bond we have an air of sophistication and also numerous tongue in cheek one liners, in the Palmer trilogy especially IPCRESS there is a stark and dark reality present. Which is reflected in the simple but effective soundtrack.
Two years later Caine returned to the role of Harry Palmer in FUNERAL IN BERLIN, this time the score was the work of Konrad Elfers, who chose to write what I would say is a more conventional score, with pop orientated passages and sounds, it is filled with some rather offbeat themes, at one point including a march motif, although the score was both irritating and enjoyable in my opinion it was not as supportive or indeed as atmospheric as its predecessors soundtrack. I was also not blow away by the movie. In the same year Harry Palmer popped up again, this time in THE BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN Caine once again stepped into the breach, but this time he was no longer a secret agent but a private investigator.
Palmer has departed the secret service, and set up on his own, his first assignment is to deliver what seems to be a harmless looking thermos flask to a friend who lives in Helsinki. But as always Palmer is curious and becomes suspicious of his friend and also of the man who has hired him to make the delivery, who is a Texan billionaire. The billionaire is convinced that he can bring about the downfall of communism in Russia with the help of a supercomputer. Intriguing, but maybe slightly out of kilter with the other two Palmer movies, implausible but at the same time entertaining, which is hardly surprising as it was directed by Ken Russel.
The score is by Richard Rodney Bennett, the composer fashioning a superbly tense but lush sounding work into which he incorporates the highly effective sound of the Theremin. Its probably one of the composers best scores, but also one that is sadly overlooked.
In 1966/67 Adam Hall’s first novel THE BERLIN MEMORANDUM (1965) was brought to the screen as THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM, directed by Michael Anderson, and starring George Segal, this is a polished and classy spy espionage counter espionage movie.
The film I think stands out from many other spy thriller because of the way in which it was shot, by director Anderson and cinematographer Erwin Hillier, who together create an otherworldly and surreal vision, which is further assisted by the at times code like dialogue by Harold Pinter.
The musical score is by John Barry, who provided the movie with a memorable theme in the form of WEDNESDAYS CHILD a vocal version of which was performed by Matt Monroe. Barry’s score is apprehensive and taught throughout, the use of breathy woods combined with strings is a masterful and effectual touch by the composer. The brooding and dark textures compliment and underline the scenarios on screen, the score being subtle but also supportive.
Ok, its back to American productions for the next two movies, Matt Helm, now theres a name to be reckoned with, and Dean Martin, portrayed the character well in a handful of movies. The two I am going to mention are THE SILENCERS and MURDERERS ROW. The Matt Helm movies were a mix of comedy, secret agent escapades and a bevy of scantily clothed beautiful women.
Basically, they were movies that for the most part were entertaining, provided you did not take them seriously, a little like the Flint movies, OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT. THE SILENCERS was scored by Elmer Bernstein with Lalo Shcifrin doing the musical duties on MURDERERS ROW, both soundtracks were outstanding, and I have to say far better than the films they were written for.
The FLINT movies both had scores by Jerry Goldsmith, who’s music complimented and elevated the films storylines, adding a level of the bizarre and at times the trivial to the proceedings, many loved the FLINT movies many hated them, I have to be truthful here and say, I liked the scores but could not take to the films and the same I have to say applies to the Matt Helm romps.
Ok, I think that just about wraps it up for our look at music to spy by, Sorry! Whats that? Have I forgotten something, let me think, got my keys, my wallet, my mask, umm no that’s about it, I think? Pardon, James who? Oh, James Bond. Well lucky you are awake I forgot him.
DR.NO, was the first Bond feature film to hit the screens in the UK in 1962, with Sean Connery in the role of the agent who is licensed to kill and thrill, 007 James Bond. The music for this first 007 adventure was by Monty Norman, and included the now iconic JAMES BOND THEME, as well as various surf inspired guitar cues and songs which were supposedly inspired by the Caribbean. The soundtrack was relatively a simple sounding one, nothing to adventurous or dramatic, until that is John Barry arranged and shaped the JAMES BOND THEME into what we recognise today. This piece of music became synonymous with franchise and has been used in every official Bond film since. There was however a legal wrangle over who wrote the theme, I will not go into any details on this and basically will move on. As I am sure everyone ha their own opinion. But the character of James Bond had been seen before DR NO came to the screen on American TV. In 1954, CBS commissioned Ian Fleming to adapt his novel CASINO ROYALE for their Climax Series into a one hour drama that featured the British spy, who was for this adaptation transformed into an American agent working for Combined Intelligence, portrayed on screen by actor Barry Nelson who was supported by Peter Lorre with music by a young Jerry Goldsmith.
To 1963, and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is released, again with Sean Connery, and a score by John Barry, which did include THE JAMES BOND THEME, that was credited to Monty Norman. But what we had here with the music for FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was something far more developed and far more dramatic and bombastic. The dramatic opening JAMES BOND IS BACK is enough to set you on the edge of your seat, and then it launches into a full orchestral version of the title track, followed by an even more heart racing arrangement of THE JAMES BOND THEME with no guitar lead, but instead performed by brass underlined by bongos and driven along by strings. The score by Barry I think contains some wonderful set pieces, as in THE GOLDEN HORN, GIRL TROUBLE, LEILA DANCES and of course the premiere of the 007 THEME as composed by Barry. And the title song with lyrics by Lionel Bart and performed by Matt Monroe.
1964 saw the release of GOLDFINGER, directed by Guy Hamilton was the third Bond movie, which starred Sean Connery as James Bond, with Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton and Gert Frobe as co-stars, and it is probably this film more than any other that people will associate with 007. The score composed by John Barry is superbly sexy and sensual plus it is overwhelmingly dramatic in places, the over the top drama works well in the movie and it is a score that one can easily sit and listen to just as music. The title song performed by Dame Shirley Bassey, is classic Bond, and sets the scene perfectly for all of what is to follow. The lyrics for the title song were written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. The soundtrack was a big seller at the time of the films release, which in those days was unusual. Barry’s ominous but richly thematic work underlines, punctuates and supports every inch of the way. With cues such as ODDJOBS PRESSING ENGAGEMENT, PUSSY GALORES FLYING CIRCUS, INTO MIAMI, and the tense and driving tracks DAWN RAID ON FORT KNOX and THE ARRIVAL OF THE BOMB AND COUNT DOWN makes GOLDFINGER, a contender for the best Bond score of all time, or maybe not?
THUNDERBALL came next in 1965, John Barry returned to do the musical duties as did Sean Connery with Adolfo Celi as the villain Largo. Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi provided the glamour and Tom Jones belted out the title song. THUNDERBALL also saw the return of the 007 THEME and Barry’s jazzy and big band inspired MR KISS KISS BANG BANG. With Bond fighting the villains on land, under the sea and making getaways with a jet pack. 1967 saw two Bond movies in cinemas, the first YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, was the first movie in the franchise to almost completely discard Ian Flemings storyline, although it used the title of the novel, the story was adapted and re-invented by Roald Dahl and Harold Jack Bloom.
Score was by John Barry, with a title song performed by Nancy Sinatra. Sean Connery again had the license to kill and also some really unconvincing make up that was supposed to transform him into a Japanese man. His nemesis on this occasion was Ernst Stavro Blofeld portrayed by Donald Pleasance accompanied by his fluffy moggy. Blofeld first appeared in THUNDERBALL and is the head of SPECTRE. The, movie was the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, who would return to the franchise in 1977 with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and again in 1979 with MOONRAKER.
The other Bond in cinemas in 1967, was CASINO ROYALE, which was not an official JAMES BOND movie as in produced by EON, this was a spoof which starred David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress and Peter Sellers, the story begins after M dies, and Sir James Bond is called out of retirement to battle against SMERSH. After this it all gets a little confusing with everyone being called James Bond to confuse SMERSH but also confusing the watching audience. It’s a movie I have to say I have never taken to, and the score by Burt Bacharach is serviceable but becomes rather tedious with the most outstanding track being the title track which is performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass.
There is also a haunting song on the score entitled THE LOOK OF LOVE performed by Dusty Springfield. The film too was beset by problems, with Peter Sellers behaving so erratically during filming that he was fired before the film was finished. It was also a movie that had five directors. This would not be the first un-official Bond movie to take to the cinema screens as we will find out later.
1969 saw a change in the series, with Sean Connery departing the role of 007, and Australian actor George Lazenby stepping into the role, for ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, Am I one of the few who thought that Lazenby did a good job? This is still something that is debated amongst real fans of the series and fans more highly qualified than I. The score is however without a doubt the best Bond score ever written, with John Barry creating a more up-beat and inventive score for this outing, if that is at all possible. There was no title song instead Barry composed an infectious theme to accompany the opening titles. The song came mid-way through the movie, WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD was performed by Louis Armstrong, with lyrics by Hal David, who was a long time collaborator with Burt Bacharach, so had provided the lyrics for THE LOOK OF LOVE as featured in CASINO ROYALE.
The soundtrack for OHMSS is literally a Barry masterpiece, with a nice touch on the JAMES BOND THEME with the guitar part being performed by electronic keyboard, there is little doubt that this is John Barry at his Bond-tastic best.
Lazenby departed the role after just one film and Sean Connery returned in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971). After this Roger Moore took up the role in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), featuring a title song by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his band Wings, with the score being composed by George Martin. Barry returned in 1974 for THE MAN WTH THE GOLDEN GUN and worked on further movies including, MOONRAKER, A VIEW TO A KILL, OCTOPUSSY and THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. With other movies in the series being scored by the likes of Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlisch, Eric Serra and Michael Kamen. With more recent additions having scores by David Arnold who I think is perfect for the job, Thomas Newman and up and coming Hans Zimmer.
Finally, how about that other un-official James Bond movie? NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, starred Sean Connery as Bond, and was more or less we are told a re-run of THUNDERBALL but just brought up to date a little. The score was by Michel Legrand, and it is without a doubt something of a different take on a soundtrack for JAMES BOND, but nevertheless made its mark as did the movie.