After one movie, George Lazenby was out. He was offered seven movies and left after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the advice of his agent. John Gavin, Adam Westm Burt Reynolds, Michael Gambon were all up for the role until United Artists made a demand: get Sean Connery back. Money be damned.
Connery came back for 1.25 million pounds, which is about $22 million dollars in today’s money and two back-to-back movies of his choice. To his credit, Connery used the money to establish the Scottish International Education Trust, where Scottish artists could apply for funding without having to leave their homeland. Connery’s made The Offence, directed by Sidney Lumet and was to make an all-Scottish version of Macbeth, which was abandoned because Roman Polanski’s version of the story was in production.
John Gavin came off the best, as he had a pay or play deal to be Bond, so he got his full salary.
The film starts with Bond chasing the man who killed his wife, SPECTRE boss Blofeld, catching him in a facility packed with clones of the villain. Bond kills a clone and then, supposedly, the real Blofeld (this time played by Charles Gray instead of Telly Savalas).
Bond is up against SPECTRE agents Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith) who are killing diamond smugglers. Glover and Smith had Connery convinced that the two were actually openly homosexual, but years later, while flying first class and flirting with a female flight attendant, Glover heard a Scottish voice say, “You son of a bitch.” Sitting behind him was Connery.
Our hero is accompanied by Tiffany Case, a diamond smuggler who is played by the first American Bond girl, Jill St. John. Felix Leiter is also on hand, this time played by Norman Burton (Simon King of the Witches, Mausoleum).
Ironically — as Jill St. John later married Robert Wagner — another Bond girl, Plenty O’Toole, is played by Wagner’s other wife Natalie Wood’s sister Lana. Wait — it gets nuttier.
The two have been involved in a decades-long feud that started during the filming of this movie as both were dating Sean Connery at the same time. And yes, Wagner started dating St. John three months after the mysterious drowning of Lana’s sister. At a photoshoot of former Bond girls for Vanity Fair magazine, an altercation occurred between them got so bad that Wood started crying. To top that off, Wood crashed an event honoring St. John in 2016 and with cameras in tow, began angrily demanding to know if Wagner killed her sister.
They have one thing in common: bad relationships. St. John was divorced three times by the age of 28 and Wood had two annulments and four divorces by 34.
Sausage pitchman Jimmy Dean is also in this as the Howard Hughes-like Willard Whyte. Dean was hesitant to play this part, as he had been an employee of the inventor at the Desert Inn.
Marc Lawrence, who directed Pigs, is in this as an attendant at the Morton Slumber Funeral Home, ably assisted by Sid Haig.
At the end, it looks like Bond is triumphant and Blofeld is dead again. Thanks to the McClory lawsuit, this is also the last movie with SPECTRE in it.
There’s one part of this that was always interesting to me. The moon landing set was a reference to the fake moon landing just two years after it happened, predating the mainstream belief in this conspiracy theory.