The art of the double bill, part two
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United Artists began re-releasing the Bond films in double feature packages in the late ‘60s, and I’m certain I saw all of them. Dr. No and From Russia, With Love were paired, as was Dr. No with Goldfinger (“Miss Honey and Miss Galore Have James Bond Back For More!”). In my bedroom there was a standee like the ad above, about six feet across and five feet high. There were Bond posters, inserts and lobby cards stapled all over the walls. At the dinner table I’d do voices for my parents: “Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?” “No, Mr. Bond: I expect you to die!” They were not impressed.
Before You Only Live Twice came out in 1967, Thunderball was my favorite. The above program really caught my eye when I saw it in the newspaper. Luckily, I could talk my father into taking me, he was always up for Bond movies. My one stipulation was that we had to see the films in chronological order. For example, never was Goldfinger to be seen before Dr. No. Dad humored this obsessive compulsive quirk. Meanwhile, I nearly fainted in the early ‘70s when Thunderball was paired with You Only Live Twice—I must have gone to this double feature five or six times.
My father didn’t have the stamina to sit through three Bond movies, nor was I able to talk any of my friends into the glorious six-hour-plus marathon. I went alone on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the Grove Theater showed them in order. When my mother came to collect me at seven that night, she shook her head, sighed, and sized me up for a straightjacket.
Above is a rare memento from a bill that played only once, for one week. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was another of my favorites. I had no problem with George Lazenby as Bond. (He was better than Roger Moore.) But the producers believed that he and the picture fared poorly at the box office: made for $7 million, it grossed $87 million worldwide. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s an astounding profit. Still, I was surprised that it was re-released at all, and took one of my first girlfriends to see it with Diamonds Are Forever. Thereafter, Bond reissues were few and far between.
James Coburn’s Flint was the best of the Bond wannabes. His two films were comedies that also worked as secret agent movies. I saw this double feature in 1967 at the Wantagh Theater, projected in glorious CinemaScope. I was too young to appreciate some of the humor, such as the scene where Flint recognizes “Hans Gruber, Hitler Youth Movement.” That exchange still cracks me up.
Dean Martin’s 4-picture Matt Helm series is, as they say, an acquired taste. A lot of it hinges on whether or not you can believe young, beautiful women throwing themselves at greasy-haired, middle-aged, doughy, drunken Dino. I saw this pair in 1967 (both films came out separately in 1966), the same year of the third Helm picture, The Ambushers. (A friend and I went to see that on opening weekend and were the only two people in the theater!) In all fairness, I have the Helm quartet on DVD and find them quite amusing at 4am on sleepless nights.
To read The Art of the Double Bill, part one, click here.
Next: Odd couples and very long evenings!