Friday, November 8, 2013

Goldeneye [1989]

And now for something completely different...

Today, I've got a look at Goldeneye, the 1989 television movie in which Charles Dance starred as Ian Fleming.  This, obviously, is not a James Bond movie, and so it is, strictly speaking, somewhat outside the boundaries of this blog.  Nevertheless, I thought it might be fun to have a look at, since it is -- again, obviously -- of tangential relation.

Easier said than done!  The movie -- which you will sometimes see referred to as Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming or Golden Eye (although the on-screen title is merely Goldeneye) -- has never been released on commercial DVD, and is difficult to obtain on VHS.  YouTube will not help, you, either; nor Netflix, nor Hulu, nor Amazon Prime.  There doesn't even appear to be a torrent for the movie...and when the pirates haven't figured out a way to upload it, you know you're talking about some obscure stuff.

In trying to find a copy, however, I did eventually prevail.  At some point, evidently as part of some 14-part series of alleged ACTION THRILLERS, the Daily Mail evidently did a DVD for the film that they included as a supplement for subscribers!  Some kind soul on eBay had one of these up for just a few bucks -- or pounds, technically -- and so I bought it and had it shipped across the Atlantic.  So, one problem down.

Second problem: the DVD is Region 2.  I've got nothing that will play a Region 2 DVD.  So I did a little research to find out how one could rip a different region's DVD, and found that my laptop will allow me to change the region code for a limited number of times.  I changed it to Region 2, ripped the disc in four parts, and that was that.

Except, it wasn't.  Of all the programs I've got, only VLC Media Player will actually play the files that I ripped off the DVD.  And it will only play them spottily.  It's prone to crash every few minutes (especially when pausing and doing the other sorts of things that are a necessity of screencapping images), and the audio occasionally goes glitchy, though rarely in the same place twice.  Very weird.

I say all that as a means to illustrate just how devoted I was to the idea of seeing this movie and passing along knowledge of it to readers of this blog.  In this case, it actually took a bit of doing.

So, the question: was it worth it?

Ehh...yeah, you know?  It sort of was.  Goldeneye is by no means a great movie -- and it's debatable as to whether it's even a good one -- but I did enjoy it.  So what we're going to do is this.  I've written a fairly extensive plot summary, which I am going to post, along with oodles of hard-won screencaps.  That way, you'll get a sense of what this extremely hard-to-find film is like.  And then, at the end, just for kicks, I'm going to apply the old Double-0 Rating system to it, and see what happens.  I'm curious to see.

And now: the plot summary.
The film begins with opening credits, during which a car drives down a Jamaican road to Goldeneye, accompanied by a semi-Barryesque bass guitar line.


The car’s occupants are Ann Fleming, her friend Loeila, and Noel Coward, who get out of the car singing “Let’s Fall in Love,” only to be shushed by a man who tells them that a movie is being filmed.  As the scene continues, we see Fleming being interviewed.  The interviewer asks him why he began writing; Fleming says he’d turned 40, and needed to take his mind off the shock of getting married.  He goes on to defend his books’ sex and violence.
Marsha Fitzalen as Loelia, Julian Fellowes as Noel Coward, and Phyllis Logan as Ann Fleming

I was charmed by this scene partly because I recognized it: snippets from the actual interview can be seen on a documentary about Fleming which appears on one of the Bond DVDs and Blu-rays.  I cannot remember which movie, sadly.

The interviewer asks Fleming if he is himself a version of Bond; Fleming demurs, claiming to be nowhere near as capable as Bond.  The interviewer asks him he was in the Secret Service; Fleming says he was not, although he also says that the one person who would never tell you whether he was a secret agent is a secret agent.  He allows as to how he could recount one incident he was involved in with the CIA, and we flash back in time.
Charles Dance as Ian Fleming


Fleming arrives in New York to conclude his wartime training: he has been tasked with assassinating a Chinese agent.  Upon landing, me meets is friend Ivar Bryce, who will serve him in a support capacity.  The two of them meet William Stephenson, who I initially assumed was an American agent of some sort; but eventually learned -- thanks, Internet! -- was instead a Canadian who served as a major British intelligence officer during the Second World War.

Ian Fleming, Ivar Bryce (Patrick Ryecart), and Sir William Stephenson (Ed Devereaux)

Fleming, Bryce, and Stephenson go to a firing range, where Fleming practices his skill against a moving target; Stephenson seems impressed but notes that Fleming will need to make his kill on the first shot, or else be killed himself.


Bryce takes Fleming to a bar – “a bit of a dive,” Fleming remarks – which the Chinese agent frequents.  The bar is run entirely by Jamaicans, and it doesn't take long for Fleming to obviously become a bit enamored of it.  Fleming catches a glimpse of his target; and the target catches a glimpse of him.


Later, Fleming sits in his hotel bathroom, steeling his nerve; his target also prepares himself for the confrontation he clearly knows is looming, exercising in his own hotel room.   

Fleming takes a taxi to the target’s hotel; there has apparently been a murder outside the hotel.   

Undaunted, Fleming proceeds inside.  The desk clerk informs someone that he is on his way; these, seemingly, are agents in a neighboring building, who look across the way at the Chinese agent and signal to him that Fleming is on his way up.  We see an eye looking in on the Chinese man from a hole in the wall.

Fleming reaches the target’s room: 1007.  The “1” has fallen partway off, so the door appears to read “007.”  
Nice touch.
Fleming hesitates, seemingly unsure.   
Resolved, he kicks the door entirely off its hinges and points his gun at the quarry, who stands stone still.  


Fleming is unable to pull the trigger.  Stephenson appears out of nowhere; seemingly, he was the man whose eye we glimpsed earlier.  “Kill him,” he says, but Fleming seems unable.  “Then I’ll kill him,” Stephenson says.  He begins firing, and the Chinese agent goes into a series of wild gymnastics, dodging Stephenson’s bullets.  The entire scenario has been a training exercise, one that Fleming evidently has – not entirely to the CIA’s surprise – failed.  Inspector Chang is on loan from the Hong Kong bureau, and he is rather better at dodging bullets than Fleming is at firing them.

Fleming and Stephenson go to a bar and have martinis; “shaken, not stirred,” Stephenson proclaims, and the drink is very much to Fleming’s taste.  He asks Stephenson for a favor: the British need a German U-boat, with a complete set of codes.  Stephenson only knows one man in the world who can get that for them: Lucky Luciano.  (WTF?!?)  So, they go visit Luciano in prison, and in exchange for a post-war vacation to Italy, Luciano says he will arrange it.  (WTF?!?!?!?!?)  Luciano says they will deliver the U-boat to the British in Jamaica.

This guy is in the restaurant Fleming and Stephenson visit.  Who he is, and the reason why he has a white cat on a dinner table, is not even hinted at.


Sometime later, back in London (where preparations for air raids are in full effect), a young blonde woman in the Naval Services – Lieutenant Marianne Bearing (my spelling here is entirely guesswork, as she is listed as "Wren Lieutenant" in the credits) – enters an admiral’s office, and is given orders to find Fleming and drag him out of whatever bed he is in.   

Lysney Baxter as "Wren Lieutenant"
The admiral wonders if Fleming has gone through with some hair-brained scheme involving getting a pair of German prisoners of war to give him some vital information.  Bearing does not know, but requests the authority to do whatever it takes to bring Fleming; the authority is given.

Sure enough, Fleming is in a nightclub, with Lady Ann O’Neill, who is assisting him in trying to pull off his scheme: to ply the two Germans – one of whom is played by a young Christoph Waltz! – with drink and food in an attempt to learn how the German U-boats made it through the British minefields near Norway.  Ann speculates that she might have more luck seducing them.  A shadowy figure observes them from a balcony.

Fleming and O’Neill drop the POWs back at their barracks; their fact-finding mission has failed. As they drive off, a figure on a motorcycle pursues them.  The driver deposits Ann at her home, and Fleming gently chides her for being married to one man but being a mistress to at least two others (Lord Rothermere and himself).

Fleming’s driver takes him home.  As they drive, Fleming notices that the car is being pursued by a  motorcyclist, who overtakes them, passes them, and shoots a look backward.  

As Fleming gets out of the car, he seems worried, and air-raid sirens punctuate the atmosphere.  A figure leaps at him, pins him against a wall...then rips off its helmet, revealing – of course – Lieutenant Bearing, who kisses Fleming passionately.  Fleming leads her inside, straight to the bedroom (taking his telephone off the hook!); but Bearing informs him that she is under orders to get him out of bed.  He is also supposed to – um... – come with her.  Bearing complains of having gotten an awful lot of dust down her back; it seems to be collecting in her boots, and even inside her trousers, and Fleming allows as to how they’d better get them off.


Fleming reports for duty, first hobknobbing with Admiral Godfrey’s starchy secretary. The two of them flirt about a hypothetical week of golf they could share (“Your balls or mine?” Fleming asks).   
The Admiral asks Fleming if he has been hit by the odd bomb; Fleming allows he has had a dusty near-miss.  The Admiral informs him that he is being sent to Jamaica to investigate reports of a German U-boat being in the area.  His old friend Ivar Bryce will be there, and the two of them are to stay until the matter is resolved.  Admiral Godfrey is sure they will be miserable.  Godfrey also has a gift from the Americans (for Fleming’s apparent help in writing the blueprints for their “secret intelligence setup”): a Colt .765 automatic pistol.


Fleming returns home, and flings his hat onto a coat rack.  He hears noises, and takes his new Colt out; in a scene reminiscent of the movie version of Dr. No, he finds Ann in his bedroom, forlorn as a result of the news that her husband has died in Italy.  “Death was his best revenge,” she says; she seems convinced that Lord Rothermere will want to marry her now, and even though she says she does not love him, the implication is that she will have no choice but to accept.
I have no idea what happened to this screencap.  In the movie, Fleming is almost entirely in shadow, and when I edited the 'cap, it looked exactly like it looked in the film.  So why does Charles Dance now appear with no shadows, looking a bit like some sort of alien creature?  It is a mystery.  But it intrigues me, so I'm leavin' it in.


Later, in Jamaica, Fleming and Bryce lounge around outside the villa where they are staying, and Fleming expresses a desire to live there permanently.  He asks Bryce to arrange for him to buy a piece of land; “I’m serious,” he says, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life in Jamaica.”  He declares his intent to write the spy story to end all spy stories.  What’ll he call it?  Fleming grabs Birds of the West Indies and says he’ll call his spy James Bond.


Fleming and Bryce meet with a rather portly Admiral – “Good lord,” says Bryce; “is that one Admiral or two?” – and swim out to the U-boat to open it.  They get inside and retrieve the codes from the submerged vessel, and somehow sink it.  The admiral is nonplussed by the entire affair.
Richard Griffiths (better known these days as Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films) as an unnamed Admiral

Fleming and Bryce float down a river, and discuss Fleming’s parents a bit.  Fleming says that his mother always said he would never really fall in love; “funny, that,” he says, presumably referring obliquely to Ann.  He goes on to say that he sort of associates love with pain and loss.  “This place is dangerous,” Fleming says; “its beauty, I mean.”  “That’s why you bottle up all your feelings,” Bryce speculates.  “That’s what M always said,” replies Fleming.  Bryce asks who “M” is, and is told that it stands for “Mama.”  (It is worth mentioning that this is a good five to six years prior to the release of the other GoldenEye, which ushered in the era of Judi Dench as M.)

At a piano recital, Ann and Lil talk – to the chagrin of the people around them – about the prospect of Ann marrying Lord Rothermere.  Loelia wonders what she’ll tell Ian.  Ann replies that she’ll tell him the truth, and says that Fleming has not asked her to marry him; he doesn’t want to marry anyone, evidently.

Later, Noel Coward is giving some sort of a recital himself – possibly an impromptu one – and Loelia continues to talk about Ann’s prospects, this time with a companion.  Ann, meanwhile, dances with Ian.  Afterward, she – seemingly having told Fleming that she will marry Rothermere – tells him that she does not expect him to be faithful to him.  But she tells him that she loves him, and the two kiss.


Back at Naval Intelligence, Fleming flirts with Bearing a bit.  He is out of cigarettes, and sends her out to get some for him.  An air raid commences, and she is killed in a blast.  
Some time later, Rothermere and Ann visit Ian at a club and offer their condolences.  “I didn’t know how much she meant to you,” says Rothermere.  “No; neither did I,” says Fleming wistfully.  He tells Ann he is angry, because all the wrong people have died; he points out the indolent rich all around him.

Back at Naval Intelligence, Fleming finds that Godfrey is gone, replaced by Richard Griffiths.  The Admiral is none too pleased with Fleming’s record, especially with the five thousand pounds that went to Luciano.  The Admiral seems to be putting an end to Fleming’s war.  Chastened – or, perhaps, merely resigned – Fleming retreats to the outer office, where he pulls blueprints for Goldeneye out of a tube and hangs them on the wall; he sits, smoking and admiring them, contemplating the future ahead.

At a cinema, Churchill declares the European war to be at its conclusion.  Fleming watches, with Ann at his side.  Fleming asks if she will go with him to Jamaica; she says it is impossible, but says she will visit him there someday.

At Goldeneye, Fleming and Bryce look out on the sea.  “It’s like a dream,” says Fleming, clearly enchanted.  Later, he sits typing at a desk.
Was this actually filmed at Goldeneye?  I have no earthly idea, but it seems like a possibility.


One morning, Coward brings Fleming mail and a couple of telegraphs.  Among the correspondence: Ann, declaring her wish to be allowed to come and see Fleming’s home.  He smiles.  We hear Ann’s voice as he reads the letter, and as Ann speaks, there is a time jump; Fleming, some time later, is sitting at his writing desk, reading the letter again, clearly moved.   

We hear his written reply, which includes an invitation for her to be the first person in the world to read about James Bond.  “What do you think of the title Casino Royale?” he asks.  Someone calls for his presence, and he goes outside.  He is, obviously, hosting a small party at his home, attended by Coward – who is singing – and Bryce and Loelia, among others.  Fleming, however, stays more or less in the shadows.  Perhaps he is again equating love with pain and loss.

There follows an odd sequence in which a woman rises – not unlike Honey Rider – out of the surf and approaches Fleming.  The two of them join hands and go off together, and there is then a scene of the two of them spending time together on a boat.  This is a lyrical and affecting pair of scenes (partially because it is directed and scored as if it is the romantic thing ever committed to film), but they seem oddly placed right after the scenes of Fleming pining for Ann.  Perhaps the point is that this is how Fleming copes?  It is unclear.


Ian and Loelia meet Anne at the airfield.  Later, Ann paints a portrait of Goldeneye while Ian gives her on update on what James Bond has been up to.  (He’s evidently just earned his Double-0 status at Royale les Eaux.)  The two of them behave as lovebirds, and Loelia declares (not very convincingly) her boredom with the whole affair.  She stalks off, waking Coward from a nap to join her.  (“I’ve been having a perfectly exhausting dream,” he says; “I’m worn out.”)  Later, Ann and Ian, silhouetted against the setting sun, kiss; they are the picture of contentment.  Even later, they lounge in the midnight surf.  This is paradise.


Back in London, Fleming is summoned to the offices of the Sunday Times.  There, he is told by Lord Rothermere -- who, it is worth mentioning, owned the Daily Mail (the company that distributed the DVD by which I watched this movie) -- that Ann is Fleming.  He says that he wants the two to not see one another again, and storms out.

In a rather odd scene, Fleming has a physical.  He is attended to by a number of sexy nurses, who behave almost as Tiger Tanaka’s girls do in the movie version of You Only Live Twice (i.e., in an incredibly willing to please manner).  The doctor -- a battleax of a woman who almost seems like a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent in her severity -- tells him that his general state of health is alarming.


Fleming visits Ann and Rothermere in hospital.  “Your child lived eight hours,” Rothermere says.

Ann and Loelia discuss divorce and its downsides.  Loelia says she feels Ann is less interested in divorce than in  marriage...and she knows who with.

Apparently as part of a research experiment for a Bond novel, Ann ties Ian -- who is, confusingly, mustachioed -- up in bed, with Loelia in the next room.  Ian proposes marriage; Ann accepts.  Lil has to be called in to burn through the restraints.  “This Bond thing has got most frightfully out of hand,” she says.

A Jamaican minister performs the wedding, with thoroughly baffling verbiage.  “Lancaster Commander Ian Melling,” he addresses Ann at one point.  “I wish you a Happy Christmas, if and when it come," he says as a benediction.


Fleming’s housekeeper brings them a cake, which evidently is inedible.  Later, Ian and Ann bury it on the beach while Coward sings a song he composed for the newlyweds.

We flash back forward in time, with Fleming talking about Coward’s having tied one of his own shoes to his car and driven off after the wedding.  As the interview continues, a man walks up from the beach and introduces himself as “Bond; James Bond.”  It is the ornithological author for whom Fleming named his character!  Fleming autographs Birds of the West Indies for him.



Fleming and Ann visit a shabby cinema, where Dr. No is playing.  Someone leaving is overheard saying that it isn’t as good as the book.  Cut to a reprise of the image of the lovers standing against the setting sun, and end credits roll.

Obviously, it is a bit of a fallacy to even try grading Goldeneye using the Double-0 Rating system, but since the movie does, in many ways, mimic the conventions of Bond films, I think it'll make for a bit of diversion.

(1)  Bond ... James Bond

The Bond character here is obviously Fleming himself.  Dance is quite good as the author; the movie has many problems, but he is in no way one of them.  He is every bit as dashing as you'd hope the creator of James Bond to be. 

Points awarded:  003/007.  Since there is virtually no action in the movie, Dance doesn't get to do certain things you'd expect of a proper Bond-esque figure.  So I'm going to go a bit lower than I'm actually inclined to do.


Main Villain:  The film has no villains, in the Goldfinger or Hugo Drax sense of things.  I suppose this means the Double-0 Rating is already busted for this film, but no matter!  For purposes of consistency, I am going to designate Uncle Vernon Dursley as the film's main villain.  And because it amuses me to do so.  That's all.

Points awarded (Main Villain): 001/007.  He's really just an excuse to make a few fat jokes and to poke fun at bureaucracy.  Not much of interest, really.
Henchmen:  Uncle Vernon has a (seemingly reluctant) toady, but he's not much of a henchman.  So instead, we'll designate Lord Rothermere as the henchman.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  002/007.  He's a non-character, frankly, and while he makes a good candidate for Fleming to eventually call out for a duel, Fleming never does actually call him out.
Total points awarded (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.):  001.5/007

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Well, Ann Fleming is obviously the go-to in this category.  She's obviously smart and competent and romantic, but I also have to confess that if I had not seen the documentaries about Fleming that appear on the Bond DVDs and Blu-rays, I would have no clue why this woman does anything she does in this movie.

Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  002/007

Secondary Bond Girls:  The "Wren Lieutenant" character is a moderately interesting subordinate "Bond girl," because in her you can actually see some of the liberated-woman style spunk that Fleming imbued so many of his actual Bond girls with in the novels.
Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls): 002/007.  I'm tempted to dock a point for that weirdo scene with the Honey Rider-esque woman rising out of the surf, but I won't.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls): 002/007
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  A Chinese man turns a few flips, in slow motion, in a hotel room.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  000/007

Editing:  There is good editing on display on occasion, but there is also a LOT of choppiness that smacks, to me, of having to cut the movie down to whatever length it had to air at.  The editing is one of the film's major problems, overall.

Points awarded (Editing): 001/007

Costumes/Makeup:  The costumes feel period-appropriate, partially because several of them seem to be replicas of outfits I've seen Fleming wearing in photographs.  So, here, I'll be a bit generous.

Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup):  004/007

Locations:  The only location to speak of is Jamaica, and to tell you the truth, I have no idea if it actually IS Jamaica, or if it is some other place standing in for Jamaica.  However, it looks mostly rather lovely.

Points awarded (Locations):  003/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."): 002/007
(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  Bond's primary allies here are Ivar Bryce and Noel Coward, both of whom are colorful figures, well acted.  Admiral Godfrey also seems like a bit of an M template, and his secretary is obviously a proto-Moneypenny. 

Points awarded (Bond's Allies): 003/007.  Probably too generous there, but so be it.  If the film does anything well, it is suggest that Fleming had very loyal longtime friends.

Direction:  The movie was directed by Don Boyd, who seems primarily to have been a director of documentaries.  He does reasonably well with the performances, and there some a few scenes that are rather lovely on a visual level, but the film is also incredibly weak in some places.  It feels cheap, which it undoubtedly was.

Points awarded (Direction):  002/007

Cinematography:  A few nice-looking scenes, most of them in Jamaica.  And there are some nicely atmospheric shots early on, when Fleming is "spying."  I don't want to be too harsh, because the transfer used for the DVD may be a big part of the problem in the more dull-looking scenes.  So let's settle for...

Points awarded (Cinematography):  ...003/007

Art Direction:  Considering how low the budget probably was, the sets look fairly good.

Points awarded (Art Direction):  003/007

Special Effects:  There is one explosion, and one fire which looks awfully cheap.  Not much to speak of here, really.

Points awarded (Special Effects):  001/007

Gadgets:  Fleming is given a gun.  That's about it.

Points awarded (Gadgets): n/a

Opening-Title Sequence:  A car drives while cheesy music plays.  We're not going to even count this one.

Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence):  n/a

Overall points awarded (Q Branch): 002.2/007
(6)  Mission Briefing

Some of the dialogue is good, but BOY, does this sucker feel like a bunch of scenes that are just thrown together.  The movie really has no through-line; ostensibly, it is mainly a flashback of a series of stories Fleming tells during an interview, but they don't particularly feel like that's what they are.  There are numerous things that are unclear (was Fleming's gun loaded with actual bullets when he confronts the "Chinese agent"?) or are never properly developed (what's with the man who got murdered outside the hotel?), and the cumulative effect grows wearisome fairly quickly.

The movie clearly wants to be a grand romance between Fleming and his eventual wife, but the specifics of the roadblocks do not really come across.  Why are they so reluctant to just, you know, BE together?  The answer the movie mostly gives us is: 'cause.  Just 'cause.

That's a problem.

There are also numerous little wink-'n'-nods toward later Bond tropes.  For example, in one scene Fleming walks into his flat and takes his hat off.  He flings it at a coat rack.  Unless I am mistaken, this was an invention of the Bond films, and therefore does not really have much to do with Fleming himself.  It's kind of cool, granted; but it feels a bit like pandering.  There are lots of similar touches, some of which work better than others.  But overall, it feels like something that detracted from the simple telling of a story, and I don't know that that does Fleming's legacy any favors.

The movie's screenplay is based on John Pearson's biography of Fleming, which I have not read.

Points awarded:  001/007.  It just doesn't work (some of the dialogue excepted).  To the extent the movie itself works, it is mostly working in spite of the screenplay, not because of it.  It was written by Reg Gadney, who probably thinks I'm an asshole.

And he might be right!

(07)  The Music

Title Song:  No such thing, y'all!

Points awarded (Title Song): n/a

The Score:  Composed by Michael Berkeley, the score is not half bad.  The theme that plays during the opening credits comes off as a cheesy attempt at writing John Barry-style music, but with no energy.  The score reuses that theme frequently, but in different orchestrations, most of them low-key.  A steel-drum-style arrangement plays on occasion when Fleming is clearly yearning for something; this works rather well, and overall, I have to say that the score has its moments.

Points awarded (The Score):  002/007.  Not great music, by any means, but effective at times.

Total points awarded (The Music): 002/007

the cover to the VHS release

Double-0 Rating for Goldeneye: 001.96/007.  So, for the record, yes: I am saying that this is a better James Bond movie than both Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again.  I am well aware that this is a ludicrous position to take, but those movies piss me off, whereas this one is simply a low-key cheapie that has a few solid elements (Charles Dance being the most solid of them) and only a few that are genuinely bad.  It is, in other words, a bad movie, but one that leans more closely toward being merely mediocre, whereas DAF and NSNA are simply bad.

In my opinion, of course.

I will not be including this movie on the list as the march through the Bond films continues.  However, just for comparison's sake, here is the tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
005.58 -- The Living Daylights
004.84 -- Moonraker
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.42 -- For Your Eyes Only
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
001.96 -- Goldeneye [1989]
001.82 -- Diamonds Are Forever
001.43 -- Never Say Never Again
You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming.

Yes, another biopic!  It'll be in much the same format as this one, too.  See you then!


  1. I think I actually saw this back in the day. The screenie of the woman lying dead next to a pack of cigarettes jarred my memory. I wish I could remember how I felt about it or if I even saw the whole thing. Alas, my memory isn't the greatest.

    That being said, did Charles Dance do anything in this movie other than smoke? He's holding a cigarette in almost every screenie you posted. How'd he live long enough to be Tywen Lannister???

    Good review. I just wish I had something to add. If anything, you've made me want to see this (again) and now I'm gonna have to go through what you did to find the fucking thing. Thanks a lot! lol

    1. He smokes a lot. A LOT. When queried by a doctor at one point, he says he smokes 70-80 cigarettes a day!

      So at least it seems to be a deliberate (and realistic) choice.

  2. would just like to point out that one of those "sexy nurses" is in fact my mother so...maybe not with using those exact descriptors eh :)

    1. As always, I apologize for suggesting that anyone's mum was/is sexy. This blog regrets whatever unwanted mental images might have inadvertently been conjured as a result.

      We stand by our assessment, however...


  3. Amusing and informative reminder - I saw this film on TV in 1990 - and often thought it would be nice to see it again.

    1. It has its moments. It's not terribly good overall, but it's a shame it isn't available for people to see for themselves.

  4. How is it possible I never commented on this? What's even odder is I have a clear memory of doing so... I wonder if this was one of those that I tried to post and Blogger comment-blocked me?

    I still have the flashdrive you sent me of this - I really need to buckle down and watch it. Not from lack of interest, certainly.

    1. It's worth a look. Not great, by any means; or even good. But worth seeing for a Bond fan.

      I haven't been comment-blocked by Blogger in a while, so maybe they fixed that bug.

  5. Great review once again! I watched this on YouTube recently, so for people who'd like to see it, it's listed as Golden Eye (1989). The only thing is it's divided into 7 videos & the 1st one is blocked in the U.S. so you'll miss about 15 mins. Parts were mildly entertaining. I haven't checked out Spymaker but thanks to your review I don't think I really want to.

    After that I found this mini-series called Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond. It was shown on BBC America in January 2014. There are 4 episodes, 45 mins. each. Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark in Captain America 1) plays Ian Fleming. He, Lara Pulver, & Annabelle Wallis do some pretty good acting in it.

    It looks like it had a nice sized budget. The action, sex & drama have been amped up from Charles Dance's version so I think it's an even less accurate portrayal of Fleming's life, but it makes for some fun watching. There was even an emotional moment that caught me by surprise. I didn't think I'd get into a Fleming biopic that much after seeing Goldeneye, but this one was definitely more enjoyable. Have you seen it? It's on Netflix Streaming.

    1. No, I haven't seen that one yet. It got lousy reviews, so I skipped it. I'll probably cover it here eventually, though.

      Weird that part 1 of Goldeneye is blocked in the U.S. whereas parts 6-7 aren't.

  6. Finally made some time to watch this recently, though I had to break it over several nights...

    1) The guy with the cat is a mystery. I like that it's there and unexplained - I mean, anyone watching the film will presumably make the Blofeld connection - it seems to be part of the random way Fleming seemed to accumulate details for his later work.

    2) Apparently, the Brits are every bit as respected as a spy agency as we are led to believe by these things. I just finished 3 unrelated spy-related non-fiction and in each of them, the people represented (from a cross-section of Russian, Czech, Israeli, American, East and West German, and Polish Cold War spy agencies) all independently praise the Brits as the best in the business. I really want to read more about Kim Philby, who defected from London to Moscow (! Who the fuck does that?!) but was a particularly connected MI-6 agent. Anyway - that lent a certain intrigue to everything for me. And I guess the "M" for "Mother" thing is based on how they coded things in the real world. (It's alluded to in "The Avengers" as well, incidentally.)

    3) I love that Noel Coward is just always hanging around.

    4) For the most part, I rather enjoyed how it mirrored certain aspects of Bond's mythology (whether it's burying his grief through sexy dalliances with the locals in exotic locales - in this case, just one - or other things.) I agree that things seem disjointed, though - a tighter focus might have turned this into a really artsy project, I think.

    5) With regard to the main relationship of the film, Ian's and Ann's, I rather enjoyed the "Just cause" aspect of it, their unexplained reluctance not to be together traditionally, etc. It was just an interesting glimpse of the unspoken romantic complexities between two people, like being handed a puzzle with pieces missing but that nonetheless paints a compelling picture. It might have just been the mood of it all I was responding to, though - I felt very cosmopolitan watching this, like I was afforded a chance to spy on more "sophisticated" people than myself.

    Thanks again for sending - happy to have this one in the home catalog.

    1. You are most welcome! Fans gotta help each other out on occasion.

      (1) Yeah, I dig that. I like the idea that Fleming was in a diner one night and there was a guy there with a white cat. In this version of events, Fleming would have noted this, mentally said "what the hell?" to himself, and remembered it for years. Then, one day, while writing a Bond novel, the detail occurs to him and finds its way into the book. Even if this isn't how it happened in real life, it makes for a fun idea in my brain.

      (2) This probably says a lot about why there is an ongoing need to try and turn Fleming into a quasi-fictional spy in his own right. Which, to be fair, he may well have been.

      (3) Yes.

      (4) Agreed. It feels like it was just a step or two away from being a genuinely good movie. If nothing else, Charles Dance makes a great Fleming. And the movie is hugely better than "Spymaker." I haven't watched the recent "Fleming" miniseries yet, but if the reviews are anything to judge by, "Goldeneye" will remain the biopic champion around these parts.

      (5) I think you're onto something here. The attraction between the two of them is very mysterious tonally; and it's always been my experience that in storytelling, nothing makes for haunting romance like not quite knowing why the people feel the way they feel. Because let's face it, romance between other people is often impenetrable to the outside observer. But watching movies makes one into a voyeur, so in observing these versions of Ian and Anne, you're in the position of being simultaneously on the inside and the outside. "Goldeneye" is a low-key example of that sort of thing, but I do find myself still thinking about it once in a while. That ain't nothin'.

  7. Hi, do you have the torrent film or something better than google? I'm looking for this movie, and I can't find anything.

    1. I have it on DVD. You might be able to find a copy on eBay, which is how I got mine.

  8. I remember watching this - I think they wanted to make a drama about Fleming's life but in order to fund it, had to make out it was about how his life was like James Bond's. I've never forgotten that scene with the nurses ...

    Christoph Waltz was based in Britain for a couple of years in the early 90s; he was one of the leads in a Channel 4 satire about Brussels (i.e. about the EU, as that's where the Commission that runs it is based), and sometimes crops up in clips from sketch shows and the like.

    1. And now he's Blofeld! Sort of. I'm curious to know if he'll be back for the next movie. I'm curious to know how I'll feel about that. Not good, I expect, although maybe a sequel could at least get a strong performance out of Waltz.

      That scene with the nurses is weird. Memorable; but weird. What an oddity of a movie!

    2. I haven't seen this film yet, but all this talk about the "sexy nurses" is distressing, for the very reason that i ended up googling this film - one of those nurses is my mother!!

      Should I be worried?

  9. I've always felt that the best thing about this film was Charles Dance as Fleming. Hard to imagine a more ideal piece of casting.

    1. He's terrific; much better than my rating indicates, if anything. In a better-produced movie, that's an actor/character combination that could have gone down in history, I think.