Posters of my yoot’: Double-Oh Flickhead
Click this and the other posters to enlarge
When I was but a wee Flickhead, my parents were sharply divided over the series. Papa Flickhead dug all the babes and martoonies and guns and explosions; Mama Flickhead hated them for those very reasons. Strictly old world, she loathed From Russia with Love for the Lotte Lenya character. (In Mama’s view, women were incapable of homosexuality: “Only men do silly things like that,” she informed me.) ‘Pussy Galore’ in Goldfinger had her expressing outrage in a letter to The Long Island Catholic and a plea to the Catholic Legion of Decency to have the movie condemned. Even though she only went to church on Easter Sunday, Mama used their stilted rating system as a barometer of what we could and could not see, one of many reasons why Papa Flickhead drank so much.
None of which deterred us from Thunderball in 1965. By that time, Bondmania was in bloom, and we headed out with my older sister and her husband on a cold Saturday night in December to the luxurious, balconied Freeport Theater, where all the Bond movies played. (If you wanted Matt Helm, you had to go down the road to the Grove.) It was opening weekend, the line went around the block, the place was selling out, and Mama persuaded everyone to ditch Bond and drive over to the Wantagh Theater for The Great Race instead. Dad was miffed until he got a load of Natalie Wood, then all was forgiven. Me and him checked out Thunderball a week later.
It was the first movie ad to grab my eye. I’d stare at it, entranced by the content, style and vibrant color. Back then I had no idea who the artists were, but years later found out that both Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy were responsible. I cut out the newspaper ads and bought the soundtrack lp — a rather pricey acquisition for an eight-year-old on a thirty-five cent allowance. (Yeah, yeah: I stole the money from my parents.) My friends and schoolmates were buying Beatles records for three bucks and 45rpm singles for thirty-five cents; but the Thunderball album, like most movie soundtracks, fetched a whopping $4.99, a princely sum.
Two years later, the poster for You Only Live Twice (1967) blew me through the roof. The image here is the one that was mostly used where I lived (the two other styles were this and this), ad art Mr. Squish describes as “batshit insane.” He may be onto something.
My teachers in elementary school and junior high determined the influence was negative. In the margins of book reports, tests and other written projects I’d include pencil drawings of evil SPECTRE frogmen and secret agents flying in mini helicopters over erupting volcanoes. Mama Flickhead got calls from the principal alerting her that her son was either ‘different’ or ‘difficult,’ and sent me off to Rorschach tests and counseling sessions. I was around ten-years-old. Just a few years later, I would be taking classes in commercial art, a passion fueled by McGinnis and McCarthy and other movie poster artists like Mort Drucker, Frank Frazetta and Jack Davis. All I learned in school was, a) the other students were as good as or better than me, b) it’s a ridiculously competitive field, and c) without contacts or connections, if you want to eat you should plan on waiting tables or selling tube socks out of the trunk of your car.
There’s a common misconception that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) bombed at the box office. Yet, budgeted at $7 million, it grossed $87 million worldwide within a year. That would be like a $70 million movie today grossing $870 million, figures that would make the suits get all hot and bothered. Still, Sean Connery had ‘become’ James Bond, so a lot of people had a hard time with George Lazenby in the part. But the public back then would’ve had problems with anyone playing Bond. I didn’t mind Lazenby at all; I thought the movie was excellent then, and still believe it’s one of the best in the series.
The one-sheet for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first Bond poster I owned. I never took care of my posters as a collector would. One-sheets, window cards and lobby cards were tacked onto my bedroom walls with total abandon, a barrage of eye-popping images that I’d shift around every so often for a change of scenery. I loved staring at the skiers shooting at Bond, the snow, the explosions, the helicopters. Unfortunately, it would be the last of its kind: you can see the difference in the rendering in the ad for the next film, Diamonds Are Forever (1971), below. It’s a softer, less direct style. The film, too, was a turning point. In previous Bonds, humor accented the action, but in Diamonds you get the feeling that the action’s accenting the humor. In the next movie, the cheap and hollow Live and Let Die (1973), Roger Moore would effectively kill Bond with prep school arrogance, effete jokiness, conservative condescension and the posturing of an unmitigated candy ass. Naturally, the mainstream thought he was just marvy. Me? I had to slog through seven of his movies until Bond regained his balls in The Living Daylights (1987). (To these eyes, Timothy Dalton is the closest to Ian Fleming’s Bond.)
Mention should be made of the great Bond reissues. Before home video, before they were shown on TV, the real Bond movies were re-released in double (and one triple) features. United Artists would sneak these in every so often, necessitating a diligent scouring of the newspaper’s entertainment section each and every week. These posters also adorned my walls. I’ve included trailers, because they were pretty cool, too.
Someone made a documentary about Robert McGinnis. I’ve never seen it, but if anyone can lend me a copy, I’d love to check it out. Here’s the trailer: