Lewis Gilbert (left) directs Sean Connery and Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice
(March 6, 1920 – February 23, 2018)
Lewis Gilbert, who directed the underrated James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967), has passed away at 97. In a couple more weeks, we would’ve been 98. You Only Live Twice gets a lot of flack, but to me it’s a knockout — from the incredible sets by Ken Adam to one of John Barry’s best Bond scores to the fact that Sean Connery hits a guy with a sofa! It’s big, loud and a bit obnoxious, and I love it.
He also directed the hip and influential Michael Caine movie Alfie (1966). Then there’s the terrific Sink The Bismark! (1960), with Kenneth Moore, Dana Wynter, Michael Hordern and some outstanding model work — all in black and white CinemaScope. It’s just a great thing all-around.
I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of A Bridge Too Far (1977) here in Raleigh, North Carolina, when it first opened. I was 13. The guy James Caan played, Staff Sergeant Dohun, was there — and he was not happy that Caan dropped an F Bomb in one scene.
Plastic commandoes ready to litter the bridge.
Watching and waiting — something that happened in both 1944 and 1977.
(Sir) Michael Caine (as John Ormsby Evelyn ‘JOE’ Vandeleur) and director (Sir) Richard Attenborough.
Shooting the harrowing sequence where Robert Redford (as Major Julian Cook) and his men cross the river in flimsy assault boats. “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
I’ve always had a soft spot for A Bridge Too Far. It’s one of the last truly epic war movies, with a few jaw-dropping scenes here and there. And it was a huge moviegoing experience for me. Cornelius Ryan’s book is terrific, too.
Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-ray release of the third, and last, Harry Palmer film, Billion Dollar Brain (1967), got me thinking about the series as a whole.* They made a huge impression on me as a kid, and it’s about time to revisit them. Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman gave us an anti-Bond with Harry Palmer, based on Len Deighton’s novels. Michael Caine was perfectly cast as the sarcastic spy.
So where are they on video? Here in the States, they’re kind of a mess. Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain, of course, has this new Blu-ray. The second, Funeral In Berlin (1966) from Guy Hamilton, is available from Warner Archive in an exact copy of the old Paramount DVD. But the first one, Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965)? You can get it on Blu-ray all around the world, but it’s been missing in the US since the Anchor Bay DVD went out of print a decade ago (hard to believe DVDs have been with us that long).
I was 10 and had just gotten my first pair of eyeglasses when I came across The Ipcress File, and a smartass secret agent with glasses and a machine gun (and Sue Lloyd) gave me hope. Maybe it was going to be OK after all.
A post on The Ipcress File is in the works.
* I don’t count the two non-theatrical Palmer/Caine films of the 90s.