Monday, August 23, 2010

Thunderball V. Never Say Never Again, Part 1

I have a strange fascination with history, chronology and the concept of 'what has come before'. I love comparing different versions of the same idea, to look for it's evolution. Movie remakes are fascinating examples of how ideas can evolve and I've chosen to highlight some famous cinematic remakes in a new series of film comparisons.

A Little About the Remake
Remakes are nearly as old as movies themselves. Lew Wallace's novel Ben-Hur was the basis for the 1907 Sidney Olcott directed Ben Hur, which was later remade in 1925 and 1959.

Screens from the 1907, 1925 and 1959 versions of Ben-Hur

But why remake a story that has already been told? In some cases it's a simple as one auteur wanting to tell their own variation of a given story. Special effect laden movies are often remade as technology improves. Many "foreign" films have been adapted for the US market. Some directors, including D.W. Griffith and Alfred Hitchcock, have even remade their own works, seeking to produce a definitive vision. Sadly, most films are remade to recapture the cinematic success of the original film. In Hollywood, a new idea is always riskier than an old idea.

For the purpose of this series, a remake is defined as film that is a reproduction or direct adaptation of another film. And trust me, there have been hundreds of film remakes and adaptations. Reboots will have to wait for their own series of comparisons.

Ian Fleming

James Bond: Celluloid Hero
James Bond was created in early 1952 by British journalist Ian Fleming and was instantaneously sought after by the small and big screens. After several years without a success transition to either screen, a new film project was started by Ian Fleming, Ernest Cuneo, Ivar Bryce, and Kevin McClory.

The project quickly dissolved into a legal battle over ownership of the story, but ultimately resulted in Fleming publishing Thunderball (TB) as his ninth Bond novel, to which McClory owned the film rights.

Fleming ultimately sold Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman the rights to his other Bond works and began producing films under the banner of EON Productions. When McClory couldn't get financing for his production, he turned to EON. McClory, Broccoli and Saltzman were all unhappy with the 1965 feature film that resulted from their partnership.

Albert R. Broccoli

As part of their deal, McClory agreed not to produce another adaption of the story for twelve years. After that deal expired in 1976, McClory and Sean Connery began working on ideas for a new original James Bond adventure tentatively called Warhead8 or James Bond of the Secret Service. However this production was successfully blocked in court. Four years later, with Warner Brothers behind him, McClory successfully got the legal green light to make a remake of Thunderball.

Unable to include James Bond, 007 or Thunderball in the title, Connery's second wife Micheline Roquebrune was the genesis for the title, having told him never say "never" again after he retired the role after Diamonds Are Forever.

These two films are perfect for comparison. Not only do they share the same source material and general plot arc, but they share the same lead actor playing the same role, the only remake I'm aware of with this accolade.

To Be Continued

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