The name’s Bunuel. Luis Bunuel.

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A VIEW TO A KILL.

If you’re like me, you often wish Luis Bunuel had directed a Bond film. One, probably anything’s better than Marc Forster directing a Bond film, and two, Bunuel was riding high during the heyday of 007, so why couldn’t it have happened?

Looking deeper, we see that Bunuel directed Bond girl Carole Bouquet in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, in which she played one half of the object, shortly before her appearance in MOONRAKER, and furthermore MOONRAKER bad guy Hugo Drax was played by Michel Lonsdale, seen getting his bottom thrashed in Bunuel’s PHANTOM OF LIBERTY back when Roger Moore was battling Scaramanga.

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“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Like Bond, Bunuel’s characters, at least in his later films, are always impeccably turned out, and demonstrate perfect sang-froid even in the most stressful situations, whether it be alligator attack or the army arriving for dinner unexpectedly. Like Bond, they are famous for their discrete charm.

Bunuel’s enthusiasm for fire-arms is well documented. You can even see him shooting a mountain goat in LAS HURDES/LAND WITHOUT BREAD (well, you can see the puff of smoke from the right of frame just before the goat falls off the mountain). Don Luis’s enthusiasm for experimental weaponry had him making his own bullets, playing around with different charges, trying to develop a bullet with just enough momentum to leave the gun barrel before bouncing lightly off its target. This interest in fancy weaponry surely marks him out as the ideal man to bring Bond to life.

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“Do pay attention, 007!”

While Bond favours the vodka martini, Bunuel leans more towards the dry martini made with gin and angustura bitters, but that’s a minor point. The martini is a creative drink, also favoured by Busby Berkeley (a Busby Bond? Why not? But later.)

So it’s not an implausible idea, OK?

Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Hervé Villechaise, would have been right at home in any of Don Luis’s films (dwarfs trot through SIMON OF THE DESERT, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY and several others), and Bond’s tendency to run up against scorpions, tarantulas and other obscure fauna would be quite in keeping with the action of a Bunuel. My Bunuel 100 Anos book (or, as I call it, The Boys’ Big Book of Bunuel) even includes a Bunuel Bestiary in the back.

So, Dan O’Herlihy as Bond. Celtic Bonds have been successful before, of course, and as Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, O’Herlihy got in plenty of experience in exotic locations. I’d love to see what he made of the part.

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Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Fernando Rey, suavely villainous in Hollywood movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, would make a great master-criminal. Could we resist Catherine Deneuve as Bond girl Anne Dalou, and could she resist playing it if the high priest of cinematic surrealism were in charge? Zachary Scott, fresh from THE YOUNG ONE, could play Bond’s CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Oh wait, he died in 1965. Damn. OK, Bernie Hamilton then. Sean Connery always thought Felix should be black — I presume on the basis that it was the kind of thankless part where nobody would object, and therefore you should make the effort.

Ken Adam, I submit, would have had a great time building sets for Bunuel, who loved “secret passages leading on to darkness”.

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL would make a great title for a Bond. Imagine what Shirley Bassey could do with a lyric like that. Much better than QUANTUM OF SLOSH, anyway.

But let’s call our imaginary Bunuel Bond GRAN CASINO ROYALE. The globe-trotting narrative will take us through Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico and France. Bond will battle tarantulas, snakes and flesh-eating ants, and face enemies armed with razors, rifles, burlap sacks and buggy-whips. All in search of a mysterious box with undisclosed, buzzing contents…

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That Obscure Odd-Job of Desire.

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26 Responses to “The name’s Bunuel. Luis Bunuel.”

  1. Late Bunuel is indeed already a Bond film. Of the best kind.

    Meanwhile. . .

    Bettie Page est mort. Wouldn’t she have made the Ultimate Bond Girl?

  2. She would have been great in a Bond. So would Vampira, somehow. Although, maybe I have a different idea of the ideal Bond movie from most people.

    RIP Betty. They say it always happens in threes, but what an unlikely triumverate: Beverly, Nina and Betty.

  3. All James Bond films are remakes of ”North by Northwest” which is pretty Bunuelian, it’s plot makes as much sense as ”Un chien andalou” and ”L’Age d’Or”. Needless to say, none of those can compare with the God of the suave stylish adventure-thrillers. Hitchcock was initially interested in the James Bond films(as was Howard Hawks) but when he found out the Bond series were ripping him off like nobody’s business, he was royally pissed.

    Catherine Deneuve as Anne Dalou…They should make a film just for that.

    Personally, I think Fernando Rey should be in the James Bond role. He’s so handsome and elegant and above all a great actor. He’s like Sean Connery in a certain sense.

    Interesting thing about ”The Exterminating Angel”, it’s actually the nickname of a real-life pirate of the caribbean…Jacques de Sorres.

  4. Ah, Ken. What a lovely chap.

    A Bunuel pirate movie would be quite something. Easy enough to steal images from Robinson Crusoe and the opening of Phantom of Liberty to show what that would be like.

    Hitchcock really wasn’t too interested in professional spies as protagonists, as Topaz shows. He much preferred to have innocent characters embroiled in espionage against their will. Notorious comes closest to being an exception, but Ingrid is still an amateur.

    There’s nothing specific in the Bond films swiped from NBNW, but the general principle of moving from one action highlight to another with only a loose plot connection and a bit of sex in between owes plenty to Hitchcock. And both Bond and NBNW share something that would horrify the modern screenwriting lecturer: no character arc.

    The last couple of Bonds are attempting to rectify this supposed shortcoming, but IT CAN’T WORK, because we need Bond to be the same every time.

  5. NBNW came about when MGM hired Hitch and screenwriter Ernest Lehman to adapt “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” — a big best-seller that the studio thought would be a big movie. But Hitch and Lehman saw nothing in it and asked MGM if they could do something else instead. The studio agreed and “Mary Deare” was made by other indifferent hands into a disapointing programmer. Meanwhile Hitch was regaling Lehman with stories of all the exotic, outrageous thriller ideas he’s had over the years that he’d never been able to put inot a movie. So Lehman concocted a premise in whcih they would fit. And the Special Magic Ingredient known as Cary Grant and Voila! Un chef-d’oeuvre!”

  6. Jacques de Sores as per his wikipedia page, burnt Havana to the ground in the 16th Century. Very little is known of him otherwise, the only other important event he did was apparently killing 50 Jesuit missionaries and dropping their bodies into the sea…Bunuel probably looked at that and said, “too obvious”. Needless to say, he more than lived up to his nickname as “L’Ange Exteminateur”.

    What the Bond films stole from ”North by Northwest” is the whole cross-country travel story there it’s across one country, with Bond it’s across the world(I am always amazed at the fact that not one of those stories takes place in England or climaxes there…). Then the crop-duster scene was ripped off shamelessly in the film with Lotte Lenya only converted with a helicopter and so on. And of course Cary Grant invented Bond in the scene where he escapes his hospital room and enters into this room with a girl tucked under a bed, who turns on the light…”STOP…stohhp”.

    Hitchcock was actually interested in professional spies, hence his Cold-War diptych of the 60′s. The strong first half of ”Torn Curtain” deals with that very interestingly. ”Notorious” is interesting in that it’s a spy story but you don’t see a gun anywhere, there’s nothing like “action” but the suspense couldn’t be more intense. In any case it’s not like the Bond producers are interested in professional spies.

    And actually ”North by Northwest” does have a character arc. He goes from being an average unassuming ad-exec(who has two ex-wives and many bartenders to support) to a man on the run to a gallant romantic hero who comes to rescue Eva Marie Saint who as in ”Notorious” is assigned by the US government to sleep with the enemy.

  7. According to Krohn’s book, Hitchcock actualy had the base story filed beforehand and when he met Lehman he realized he found the right guy for the job.

    Hitchcock’s spy-thrillers as fantastic as they are, are based on reality. Hitchcock had a friend who worked in the UK secret service in the Middle Eastern theatre during the second world war. They actually planted a decoy target with false passport, papers and everything(the ur-George Kaplan) and to their immense surprise, the Nazis fell for it and wasted much time searching for a man who didn’t exist. Hitchcock’s friend wrote the story of an average man being mistaken for the fake decoy but couldn’t make into a script and so he sold to Hitch.

  8. I think one of the Brosnan Bonds has a chase on the Thames, otherwise that’s about it. One of the distinguishing traits of the original Casino Royale that makes it feel so very unlike what it’s supposedly parodying, is that a great deal of it takes place in Britain.

    Fascinating that the fake George Kaplan was based on a real fake person!

    I believe the only screwy Hitchcock idea that they couldn’t fit into NBNW was the automated assembly line where the car is put together, and then when the door is opened at the end, a body falls out! More up Bunuel’s street, that one.

  9. That was ”The World is Not Enough”. I actually liked that film and thought it was a more interesting Bond story than usual. That was actually the last I saw in theatre.

    Actually that cut scene at the assembly was more elaborate…apparently Thornhill is chased into a factory and he gets caught up in the assembly line and Hitchcock wanted it to end in a coup whereby Cary is seemingly crushed by the machinery which automatically makes the car and then, when the car is done and spoons out, we see Cary in the driver’s seat driving the hell away from his chasers. Spielberg read about that and included it in ”Minority Report”.

    The idea of a real man being mistaken for a fake one and that the real guy has to survive by occassionally pretending to be George Kaplan and then “dying” as George Kaplan is part of the fascinating subtext of N.by.N-W. To quote Hamlet, “I am but mad north-northwest, when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” Antonioni’s ”The Passenger” which is kind of like a James Bond story with the globetrotting and all, also touches on that aspect. Only there the identity stolen and enacted is an actual one.

  10. Quite true. And Blow-Up is a Hitchock scenario if there ever was one.

  11. When I last watched “Dr. No” I was surprised and pleased to see how well the thing played as a character study: Bond is set up as someone happy to bed a glamorous woman and then kill her, yet when he meets – Honey Ryder is it? – off the mainland you sense he’s suddenly a little out of his depth, because she has none of the throwaway, la-di-da sophistication that he’s used to, and will quite readily admit to spidering to death a man who’s tried it on with her. And all the best Bond girls have this same lack of sophistication, they keep him on his toes. All I’m saying really is I’m not against hugging and learning in Bond per se. And speaking of Bunel:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_TyKGiLt8Ls

  12. I should warn people that that video is a wee bit disturbing.

    Yes, Dr No can add character development, and often you see an attempt at it each time there’s a new actor in the role: Lazenby got married and widowed, and Craig is evolving (but he repeats his journey in the latest film), but it can’t be sustained over a series because the fundamentals of the character are unchangeable.

    Alan Moore summed up the appeal of Bond by quoting a short Leonard Cohen poem:
    When I am with you
    I want to be
    The perfect man who kills.

    It looks like Hitchcock recognised the kinship with Antonioni’s work, as Kaleidoscope/Frenzy was planned to look quite Antonioniesque.

    And he loved Bunuel’s Tristana, repeating “that leg!” in wonderment when introduced to Don Luis.

    I think it’s a great shame Hitchcock never worked with Denueve.

  13. Carole Bouquet was in For Your Eyes Only. Lois Chiles and Corinne Clery were in Moonraker. (grabs his coat and runs for the door before he’s seized)

  14. D’oh!
    That makes sense, because I remember the second girl in Moonraker being awful. So, not Bouquet.

    Lois Chiles, she has a great voice. Not necessarily a great actress, but the voice is enough.

  15. Yes but Alan Moore hates Bond though, doesn’t he? At least that’s what comes across reading The Black Dossier in which he’s portrayed as a charmless, fascist-sympathising failed rapist. Actually what the hell is going on in that book?

  16. Moore was a big Bond fan as a kid, but I think he’s decided to portray Bond as someone like that would actually BE, if he were real. Based on Moore’s present political convictions, a state-sponsored murderer like Bond is not a very sympathetic figure, and why should he be?

  17. It is indeed a shame that Hitchc never worked with Deneuve.

    Belle de Jour is in many ways Hitchcock in that it deals with the Ultimate Cool Blonde.

    Deneuve continues to enchant in Despleschin’s A Christmas Tale — a very mixed bag that would be quite empty without her.

  18. Deneuve looks set to go on forever: in 20 years time she’ll probably be playing Danielle Darrieux’s part in a remake of 8 Women.

  19. I was just recently told by a friend that Van Johnson was still alive. I was stunned, I had to go home and get on the net to confirm, and sure enough he was. Was.

  20. Thunderbelle de Jour
    The Man With The Golden Age
    The Exterminating Angel Who Loved Me

    What? We’re not doing these?

    Never mind.

  21. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz…or the translation of the original Mexican title(slightly arch) “Rehearsal of a Crime”(“Ensayo de un crimen”).

    Bunuel and Hitchcock have often been compared with each other and both were mutual admirers. I personally think “Belle de Jour” was inspired by “Marnie”.

  22. By the way does anyone know what Antonioni thought of Hitchcock?

  23. Sing out, Shirley Bassey!

    - – - –

    “The Exterminating Angel
    “– She’s the one!
    “The Exterminating Angel
    “Will have her fun.
    “You may try to escape her
    “As you dance your ev’ry caper,
    “But she’s ‘scissors’ to your ‘paper’
    “When day is done.

    “The Exterminating Angel
    “Has her ways.
    “Once you’re caught,
    “You’ll not escape her deadly gaze.
    “Her lips, once you have kissed her,
    “Are a queer ‘quietus,’ Mister!
    “Just a nasty game of Twister
    “Are all her days.

    “Where’s your will?
    “It’s gone in a flash!
    “Your tendons of steel
    “Have turned to trash.
    “That high-fashion rendezvous
    “Has one message, boy: ‘You’re through!’
    “Will you plummet?
    “She’s watching while you crash …

    “The Exterminating Angel
    “Goes her way;
    “Others’ peril
    “Is her fav’rite form of play.
    “While goodly hearts are yearnin’
    “She’ll extermin’ squirmin’ vermin.
    “It’s your fate that she’ll determine
    ” — so they say!

    “With her *schadenfreude* smile …
    “Let her toy with you a while.
    “What The Angel wants, she wants
    ” — come what may!”

    (copyright 2008, Chris Schneider)

  24. Bee-utiful!

    And I love Thunderbelle de Jour too.

    (WordPress has been redesigned on the inside, so I almost missed these)

    No idea what Antonioni thought of Hitch, although I bet there was some admiration.

    Belle de Jour = Marnie would be possible, except that Belle is based on a novel and so is Marnie. And most of the similarities seem to come from the original works. And we know Bunuel didn’t seek out the book in order to follow Hitch, the book was more or less forced on him.

    Still reeling over the revelation (by Arhur) that Dead of Night influenced Bunuel. You can really see it in Discrete Charm and Phantom of Lib, with their ghost stories, tales within tales, dreams within dreams, and the quietness and the inappropriate sounds harken back to the “Room for one more inside” episode of DON. What Comrade K calls “that twilight hush”, which Rivette picked up and ran with for Marie et Julienne.

    So that the thing that most influenced late Bunuel is not his contemporary from Paris art cinema, Alberto Cavalcanti, but… Basil Dearden!

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