Backstory: Richard Maibaum on James Bond

2»

Comments

  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,960
    The man truly got James Bond, and it shows. He is truly missed today! I’m surprised at how he rips on some of the actors, namely TS and in particular CL. I thought CL’s Scaramanga was a great villain as is.
  • Posts: 2,877
    Maibaum was a bit more blunt about LTK in Steven Jay Rubin's The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia:

    "There was very little fantasy about Licence to Kill. The villain's caper was bland when you compare it to destroying Fort Knox or the food supply of the world. And Bond shouldn’t be so damn funereal. There should have been more humor."

    My comments on his comments, starting with his earlier ones:

    1. “One thing the picture suffers from is that for one reason or another we've had so many actors playing Felix Leiter."

    True, but there's not much the film could have done about this. I think the bigger issue is that Bond and Felix's closeness could have been stressed a bit more. A stray remark or two about their past adventures, for example, would have worked. And when Leiter is being fed to the sharks, he could have told Sanchez a friend would avenge him. The film also should have given Bond another conversation with Felix before the ending. This might have resulted in a less clumsy final conversation.

    2. “Personally, I didn’t feel that the meditation center came off clearly enough as to what exactly its function was."

    Perhaps, but I think audiences got the point that Joe Butcher was a satire on smarmy American evangelists.

    3. “I personally think the [track chase] sequence was a little too long with too many explosions."

    I'd say any cuts would have harmed the clarity and unity of one of the best-made action sequences in any Bond film. Perhaps Maibaum is speaking more as a literary senior citizen than an action filmmaker here.

    4. "The villain's caper was bland."

    LTK is one of the few pre-Craig Bond films where the villain's caper takes back seat to a more personal plot---Bond's mission of vengeance against Sanchez. The heart of the film is Bond's destruction of Sanchez and his empire, which we see onscreen. Sanchez's caper is on the mundane level of Kananga's in LALD, which Maibaum criticized as being "cooking drugs in the jungle." Perhaps, but it didn't harm LALD at the box office. Not every Bond film needs a huge caper.

    5. "Bond shouldn’t be so damn funereal. There should have been more humor."

    I'm fine with the film's humor content as is, but audiences at the time would have been pre-conditioned to expect more. That said, in this era Bondian humor mostly consisted of cheesy puns that Dalton obviously hated. He was better at darker and more sardonic lines ("Compliments of Sharkey!") and the film could have used more.

    As for the film having "very little fantasy"---true, but damned if you do or don't. The more fantastical AVTAK also underperformed, and Bond could never be as fantastical as Batman. Furthermore, in '89 the series was having to operate on the same budget it had a decade ago. We can only be grateful that GoldenEye had more money to splash around.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,960
    After reading some of Richard Maibaum’s quotes, I lose a bit of my previous respect of him. He was too critical on certain things that other people had in the creative process. I think he would rip Purvis and Wade apart, as well as several other people.
  • edited December 2023 Posts: 2,544
    MaxCasino wrote: »
    After reading some of Richard Maibaum’s quotes, I lose a bit of my previous respect of him. He was too critical on certain things that other people had in the creative process. I think he would rip Purvis and Wade apart, as well as several other people.

    He probably would have done. But it’s also worth noting that he was a very old school scriptwriter, even in comparison to someone like Mankiewicz. Take SF - I can imagine Maibaum complaining endlessly about the fact that the McGuffin (the list of agents) is pretty much dropped halfway through the film, Silva’s plan amounts to simple revenge (he really didn’t like low key villain plots), no one in the film truly succeeds including Bond, the finale amounts to a shoot out in Bond’s old home, and the Bond formula in general is given a bit of a shake up with no lasting Bond girl etc. I think all these things make SF all the better, and even give them a Fleming-esque element. They all certainly feel purposeful - dare I say modern - with character often being prioritised over the mechanics of the plot. I have no doubt a writer like Maibaum would have thought it unacceptable for a Bond movie despite the critical and financial success SF received.

    Not that it matters. Maibaum had plenty of successes but certainly made a number of stupid decisions (many of which Cubby outright rejected). He’s a very important part of Bond history. These are great articles by the way!
  • Posts: 2,877
    I don't always agree with Maibaum's criticisms, but considering how he contributed to all of the best Bond films from the classic period ('62-'89), he more than earned the right to be critical. He was a major player in the continuing success of the series.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,960
    Revelator wrote: »
    I don't always agree with Maibaum's criticisms, but considering how he contributed to all of the best Bond films from the classic period ('62-'89), he more than earned the right to be critical. He was a major player in the continuing success of the series.

    I know, but, there are interviews where he comes off as a person who thinks their sh*t don’t stink. Purvis and Wade don’t have this problem. Still, you’re right about him having the high right to his opinions. His humor is missed. I wonder what he would have thought about other continuation novel authors. I’m sure he’d have some things to say!
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,622
    Revelator wrote: »
    I don't always agree with Maibaum's criticisms, but considering how he contributed to all of the best Bond films from the classic period ('62-'89), he more than earned the right to be critical. He was a major player in the continuing success of the series.

    Yes, that's how I feel too. He intrinsically understood what made James Bond tick and what worked in a Bond film. He also successfully adapted many of the best Fleming Bond novels and short stories for the big screen. So, as you say, he earned the right to be critical of the Bond films he didn't write. He was certainly a much better scriptwriter than Tom Mankiewicz. And we know he'd never have written some of the guff Purvis and Wade have come up with such as having Bond surf a tidal wave or having Blofeld be Bond's stepbrother. He'd be spinning in his grave at the very thought of such transgressions against Bond.
  • Posts: 2,544
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Revelator wrote: »
    I don't always agree with Maibaum's criticisms, but considering how he contributed to all of the best Bond films from the classic period ('62-'89), he more than earned the right to be critical. He was a major player in the continuing success of the series.

    Yes, that's how I feel too. He intrinsically understood what made James Bond tick and what worked in a Bond film. He also successfully adapted many of the best Fleming Bond novels and short stories for the big screen. So, as you say, he earned the right to be critical of the Bond films he didn't write. He was certainly a much better scriptwriter than Tom Mankiewicz. And we know he'd never have written some of the guff Purvis and Wade have come up with such as having Bond surf a tidal wave or having Blofeld be Bond's stepbrother. He'd be spinning in his grave at the very thought of such transgressions against Bond.

    To be honest, I can very easily imagine Maibaum writing something like Bond surfing a tidal wave. I mean, it’s not a million miles away from something like Bond using a carpet to make a get away as was originally scripted in TLD, or Bond having to use the hood of a beaten up snow bike as a snowboard in AVTAK…. actually that scene in DAD is essentially just a larger scale version of that latter scene come to think of it.

    As for Brofield, I suppose Maibaum did have his strange thing about putting Goldfinger’s twin brother in a number of scripts, which is even dafter I’d say. It’s also a MGW idea from my understanding so I’m not sure how much blame can be put on P&W.

    Mankiewicz was a slightly different kind of writer, and not necessarily my favourite when it comes to Bond (although his dialogue in DAF especially is actually very witty). He was a much more modern writer than Maibaum though despite his flaws, and I think this was a major reason why he was hired over Maibaum for those first stretches of 70s Bond films (and why he wouldn’t be the ‘lead writer’ on one until FYEO which was very consciously a ‘back to basics’ film).
  • Posts: 2,877
    007HallY wrote: »
    As for Brofield, I suppose Maibaum did have his strange thing about putting Goldfinger’s twin brother in a number of scripts, which is even dafter I’d say.

    I think it's less daft, because the idea was just an excuse to have Gert Frobe play another villain. Not a totally meritless idea, considering how great Frobe was, though I'm still glad it didn't happen. But at least it didn't give Bond a childhood/pseudo-family connection to any villains.
    Mankiewicz was...a much more modern writer than Maibaum though despite his flaws, and I think this was a major reason why he was hired over Maibaum for those first stretches of 70s Bond films

    Maibaum and Guy Hamilton didn't get along, which is another reason. And then Hamilton fell out with Mankiewicz duirng TMWTGG, so Maibaum was brought back, probably at Cubby's behest.
  • edited December 2023 Posts: 480
    Frobe was paid more than Connery in Goldfinger.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,960
    Maibaum did in a way get his revenge sequel in QOS. Granted, it probably would have been too far action and artsy for his liking.
  • Revelator wrote: »

    Maibaum and Guy Hamilton didn't get along, which is another reason.

    I’d never heard this before. How come?
  • Posts: 2,544
    Revelator wrote: »
    007HallY wrote: »
    As for Brofield, I suppose Maibaum did have his strange thing about putting Goldfinger’s twin brother in a number of scripts, which is even dafter I’d say.

    I think it's less daft, because the idea was just an excuse to have Gert Frobe play another villain. Not a totally meritless idea, considering how great Frobe was, though I'm still glad it didn't happen. But at least it didn't give Bond a childhood/pseudo-family connection to any villains.
    Mankiewicz was...a much more modern writer than Maibaum though despite his flaws, and I think this was a major reason why he was hired over Maibaum for those first stretches of 70s Bond films

    Maibaum and Guy Hamilton didn't get along, which is another reason. And then Hamilton fell out with Mankiewicz duirng TMWTGG, so Maibaum was brought back, probably at Cubby's behest.

    For me both ideas drift worryingly close towards the realm of pastiche, if not parody. But yes, I can definitely see why the idea was played around with considering the success of GF. The Brofield thing is something that makes sense in theory but not in practice in my opinion.
    Revelator wrote: »

    Maibaum and Guy Hamilton didn't get along, which is another reason.

    I’d never heard this before. How come?

    I know Hamilton’s Bond films contain some pretty specific tropes/ways of depicting certain characters that are slightly different than what comes before/after (ie. M is more curmudgeon, Leiter’s less ‘cool’ and more a desk guy than in DN or TB, and not only the humour but the absurdity is usually dialled up more in his films etc.) Maybe it clashed with Maibaum’s preferred way of writing? I really don’t know.
  • Posts: 2,877
    I’d never heard this before. How come?

    According to Hamilton: "Maibaum is a very nice man, I had a lot of respect for him, but at this period he'd run out of, to me, freshness. He was basically an old man compared to Tom." During the development of TSWLM Hamilton was still attached to the project and said "Maibaum didn't want to work with me and I didn't want to work with Maibaum."

    Maibaum's reasons for disliking Hamilton are less clear, but here's a clue from a letter he wrote to Cubby during postproduction on DAF:

    "I'm currently involved in a credit dispute with Mankiewicz and Price, who had all the fun of second guessing and none of the agony of sweating out the basic story, but what the hell, that's show business...Cubby, you may not like me saying this, but my heart is in the Bond series and I hope to hell you have cutter as good as Peter Hunt. Peter may have become a monster as a director and I think he did a hell of a job with an idiot like Lazenby, but as an editor his contributions to the success of the fims can't be over-emphasized. He made the films move. Guy's tempo is not particularly fast and Peter compensated for it, as he did for Terence too. I'm speaking out like this because I still care, whatever I might have said in a fit of momentary frustration."

    Hunt wasn't a fan of Hamilton's working style either, according to this interview:

    "I got a little angry with Goldfinger, because I didn't think it was being made properly. In fact, I did quite a lot of work on that insofar as second unit shooting...I just didn't feel that it was coming out the way it should have been coming out. We changed the theme a bit, there was a different director...I just felt it wasn't quite right. I must say that from the producers' point of view, they must have thought the same thing too. They really let me have a much freer hand on that in every way, and I was able to bang and boost that about."
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited December 2023 Posts: 17,622
    That's fascinating stuff, @Revelator. I think there definitely was a change in the take on things when Hamilton took over as Bond director. There was a move towards self-parody with Goldfinger which of course was only to increase with DAF, LALD and TMWTGG.

    Just out of interest, where did you get the quote from Maibaum's letter to Cubby?
  • edited December 2023 Posts: 2,877
    It's quoted in Charles Helfenstein's Making of OHMSS book. Definitely a must-buy, especially for the section on the evolution of the film's script.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,622
    Revelator wrote: »
    It's quoted in Charles Helfenstein's Making of OHMSS book. Definitely a must-buy, especially for the section on the evolution of the film's script.

    Ah, I see. I have that book in my collection, as well as his TLD one. I really much read over them again as they're excellent books.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,960
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Revelator wrote: »
    It's quoted in Charles Helfenstein's Making of OHMSS book. Definitely a must-buy, especially for the section on the evolution of the film's script.

    Ah, I see. I have that book in my collection, as well as his TLD one. I really much read over them again as they're excellent books.

    They are. I wish Charles would write a 3rd one.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,622
    MaxCasino wrote: »
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Revelator wrote: »
    It's quoted in Charles Helfenstein's Making of OHMSS book. Definitely a must-buy, especially for the section on the evolution of the film's script.

    Ah, I see. I have that book in my collection, as well as his TLD one. I really much read over them again as they're excellent books.

    They are. I wish Charles would write a 3rd one.

    I imagine they're hard books to write as there's so much material that needs to be brought together. Maybe he's covered the two films that he wanted to. I'm not sure if he has any plans to do another book. I know he used to be a member on CBn years ago and possibly still is.
  • edited December 2023 Posts: 1,955
    He implied that he may do a third book on both his appearances on the ‘James Bond Radio’ Podcast, but he’s never given a definitive answer. I’d love another book from Mr. Helfenstein! His book on Majesty’s helped propel that film much higher in my rankings, and I really enjoyed both of his appearances on JBR.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,622
    He implied that he may do a third book on both his appearances on the ‘James Bond Radio’ Podcast, but he’s never given a definitive answer. I’d love another book from Mr. Helfenstein! His book on Majesty’s helped propel that film much higher in my rankings, and I really enjoyed both of his appearances on JBR.

    Ah, I didn't realise he'd been on there. Will have to give that podcast a listen then. Good to hear that he may be working on another book.
  • Dragonpol wrote: »
    He implied that he may do a third book on both his appearances on the ‘James Bond Radio’ Podcast, but he’s never given a definitive answer. I’d love another book from Mr. Helfenstein! His book on Majesty’s helped propel that film much higher in my rankings, and I really enjoyed both of his appearances on JBR.

    Ah, I didn't realise he'd been on there. Will have to give that podcast a listen then. Good to hear that he may be working on another book.

    I’d just keep in mind too that his last appearance on JBR was back in 2017 if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know for certain if he is actively working on another book, but he’d always say it’s either “under consideration” or “working into fruition”, so who knows if something has changed since then.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,622
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    He implied that he may do a third book on both his appearances on the ‘James Bond Radio’ Podcast, but he’s never given a definitive answer. I’d love another book from Mr. Helfenstein! His book on Majesty’s helped propel that film much higher in my rankings, and I really enjoyed both of his appearances on JBR.

    Ah, I didn't realise he'd been on there. Will have to give that podcast a listen then. Good to hear that he may be working on another book.

    I’d just keep in mind too that his last appearance on JBR was back in 2017 if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know for certain if he is actively working on another book, but he’d always say it’s either “under consideration” or “working into fruition”, so who knows if something has changed since then.

    Yes, it's been a while then. These types of in-depth books must take ages to write as their main sources are often scripts and drafts not usually in the public domain.
Sign In or Register to comment.