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Evolution of British Spy in Film

Updated on May 28, 2020

Astin Martin: James Bond 007 sportscar

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5, 1964, Goldfinger film.
James Bond's Aston Martin DB5, 1964, Goldfinger film. | Source

International Warfare Influences British Spy Role

British-spy heroes fascinated American audiences for generations. Foreign settings and international intrigue add essential components for British espionage stories. Comparatively, Ian Fleming’s famous secret agent, James Bond 007, uses better advanced technological weaponry than most secret agents. Several British-agents act more self-reliant than Bond; intelligent investigation and physical agility overcome their difficult obstacles.

The British-spy hero developed a pattern originating from historical international warfare. British intelligent officers engaged in important missions during conflicts arising from threatening foreign nations including their own country.

British-Agent's Universal Issues

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Political assassinations  
   
   
Double-agents
 
 
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Foreign embezzlement
 
 
Kidnapping
 
 
Brainwashing
 
 
Defection
 
 

Frederick Forsyth, Author: The Day of the Jackal

Forsyth wrote popular 1971 British assassin novel: The Day of the Jackal
Forsyth wrote popular 1971 British assassin novel: The Day of the Jackal | Source

British-Agents' Masterful Disguises

A 1988 international film thriller, The Deceivers, Pierce Brosnan, plays a British officer disguised like an Indian; he infiltrates an Indian tribe full of mass assassins. They massacred two million people for sacrificial rituals, in behalf of Kalla, Goddess of Destruction. A British army rescue team stampedes a successful attack against evil worshipers on the battle field. The film dramatizes an historical event during 19th century Colonial India.

Masterful disguise popularized under-cover action in British espionage adventure. Universal Pictures released a war drama, Raid of Rommel, 1971. Richard Burton played a British intelligent officer impersonating a high-ranking Nazi officer. He led a group of P.O.W.’s into a tank battle against Nazi Panzer Divisions; their surprise attack destroyed German fuel pumps and deadly firearm emplacements. Raid of Rommel was based on an authentic historical battle of Tobruk.

John Forsyth’s 1984 best-selling novel, The Day of the Jackal, became a spectacular motion picture adaptation, released by Universal Pictures,1973. Edward Fox played a villainous British-agent, a talented master of disguise artist. French O.A.S. hire a British master spy to assassinate the French president for one-half million dollars; the organization doesn't like Charles DeGuaule’s political policies, including Algeria's independence.

The Jackal uses a special light-weight rifle designed with a silencer. A spray-can paints his European sports car; he switches license plates to avoid detection. An auto accident enables him to use the car of his unfortunate victim. He sexually seduces a woman in Paris, sets-up a future meeting between them, and hides-out at her residence before strangling her to death.

The Jackal prepared for his mission, a specialist make-up artist changed his hair color and skin. The spy impersonated a young college professor and a one legged-cripple. An old woman fooled by his crutches and frail appearance becomes strangled for her upstairs apartment, an ideal location for a surprise attack. DeGaule leans down out of the assassin’s firing-range and INTERPOL (international police) races up the apartment stairway and blasts the Jackal against the wall unleashing enormous fire power. The Day of the Jackal featured masterful disguise make-up memorable for a British-spy movie.

International War Stories

British people always felt threatened by terrorist invasion. United Artist released Battle of Britain, 1969. During World War II, Hitler’s bombers outnumbered the British Air Force, 4-1. The Royal Cabinet's courageous Prime Minister, employs top-ranking pilots, and miraculously defeats the German Luftwaffe with a relentless fighting spirit.

British Cabinet Members often felt threatened. A 1984 television movie, To Catch a King, appeared on HBO and featured Robert Wagner, playing a nightclub owner, working undercover as an American agent. He saves a former British Monarch from abduction. The story occurs in Lisbon, 1940. An exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor feel pressured from Nazi soldier pursuit.

Britain resisted World War II Nazi aggression. What about World War I? A popular spy-adventure film, The Riddle of the Sands, released by the U.K., 1979, feature two young Englishmen played by Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale, enjoying a sailing adventure prior to World War I. Aboard their 30 foot Dulcibella, they scout the Northwest coast of Germany and discover a Nazi top-secret plan; a German fleet plans to invade Britain. Undercover English spies attempt to save their people. MacCorkindale reacts shocked about his girlfriend’s father; he delivered British top-secret information to Germans.

The Riddle of the Sands, a top-ranking spy thriller, reveals British war involvement played an important factor shaping traditional British agents development.

007 Original Novelist: Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming bronze bust developed by British sculptor, Anthony Smith.
Ian Fleming bronze bust developed by British sculptor, Anthony Smith. | Source

British Super Gadgets Overcome Obstacles

Author Ian Fleming provided James Bond 007 with super technological gadgets favoring his odds of success during special missions. He also created sinister villains protected by invincible like armament presenting grave danger to our world.

Occasionally, James Bond 007 displays self-reliant behavior, but his well-planned missions include more than one super-gadget helping him escape from deadly traps. His fantastic adventures look more colorful on screen than average British espionage films.

Beautiful sexy women frequently appear in British-spy adventures as double-agents, undercover agents, and defecting female agents (angelic conformists).

Barbara Bach plays a soviet agent in The Spy Who Loved Me, United Artist, 1977. Bond 007 teams-up with an irresistible rivaling Russian woman, and fight Stromberg, a marine biologist, creator of Sardinia's dangerous sub-aquatic civilization. Stromberg plans to fire sub-atomic missiles at Moscow and New York.

Honor Blackman plays enemy ace pilot, Pussy Galore, co-starring in Goldfinger, United Artist, 1964. Before Bond gains her allegiance, she leads a squad of female aviatrix to knock out U.S. troops victimizing them with nerve gas, an attempt to prevent Goldfinger from bombing the interior of Fort Knox. Galore helps Bond alert the Pentagon. Goldfinger enlists Chinese supporters; they help him cripple enormous U.S. gold supply gathered the past 58 years, but his plan fails. Whether women played competent undercover agents or damsels in distress, James Bond 007, made love to them like no other British-spy hero.

Villainous Dr. No, distinguishable for his metal hands, and once a treasurer of a Chinese Tong, worked for SPECTRE, an organization inhabiting Jamaican Islands and responsible for world domination. Dr. No appeared as the first power hungry maniac antagonist of a James Bond 007 movie.

Her Majesty’s Service provided James Bond 007 top-secret assignments protecting our world from drug expansion, international arm deals, key geographical detonation, hijacking sophisticated defensive weaponry, dangerous civilizations in space and under sea, plastic surgery impersonators and deadly viruses. Flemming created large scaled crisis developments.


The evolution of James Bond and the inspirations Ian Fleming relied on

James Bond 007 Leading Men

Actor
Movie title
Trivia
Sean Connery
Dr. No (1962)
Connery: James Bond; Producer Albert R. Broccoli loved his macho image in Disney's, "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959). Broccoli's wife, Dana, viewed his performance, attracted by his natural appeal to women.
Connery
Russia from Love (1963)
Considered Connery's personal favorite. Author, Ian Fleming's, final Bond film he viewed alive.
Connery
Goldfinger (1964)
Fastest grossing picture release of its time in cinematic history. Listed in Guiness Book of World Records.
Connery
Thunderball (1965)
Panavision enabled Connery to open the film's opening with a gun barrel sequence, a tradition among 007 actors.
Connery
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond, well-mannered, takes a stirred martini from Henderson, the only instance of a 007 unshaken martini.
George Lazenby
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
To date, George Lazenby, youngest actor playing James Bond 007, 29.
Connery
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Connery signed after many actors failed to negotiate a contract. He signed a two picture deal lucrative for early 1970's.
Roger Moore
Live And Let Die (1973)
Moore's 007 debut. Bond carries a Smith and Wesson 44 Magnum, a firearm popularized by Clint Eastwood's, "Dirty Harry" films. Eastwood turned down 007 role.
Moore
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Only adapted work after Fleming's death: 13th final James Bond novel.
Moore
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Bond's white Lotus Esprit car encouraged fans to purchase one. They registered for a 3-year-waiting list.
Moore
Moonraker (1979)
"Moonraker" preceded "For Your Eyes Only" because of two sci-fi 1977 film successes, "Star Wars: Episode IV, a New Hope", and "Encounters of the Third Kind."
Moore
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Film reached worldwide earnings of $194,900,000, and saved United Artist from bankruptcy, they lacked gross earnings from "Heaven's Gate."
Moore
Octopussy (1983)
"Octopussy" adapted from Ian Fleming's final 007 short story, published in "Playboy" Magazine, serialized two years after his death.
Connery
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Premiered only 4 months after "Octopussy." Connery's return as Bond sparked fun competition with Moore. Connery's film scored 55.4 million U.S. box office sales, but didn't reach 67.9 million earned by "Octopussy."
Moore
A View To Kill (1985)
Roger Moore's final Bond film as oldest actor to play 007, 57 years-old.
Timothy Dalton
The Living Daylights (1987)
Dalton played Bond before Pierce Brosnan, an actor who fulfilled contract obligations with NBC's "Remington Steele." Dalton often competed for other Bond films.
Dalton
Licence To Kill (1989)
Dalton's sexual activity appeared limited; a serious AID's epidemic hurt it.
Pierce Brosnan
GoldenEye (1995)
Bond killed 47 people, sets a record for all 007 films.
Brosnan
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
An all time high death count credited for a 007 film, 197 people.
Brosnan
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Film tied "Sleepy Hollow" for opening weekend box office record, first time two films compete against each other and earn over 30 million dollars.
Brosnan
Die Another Day (2002)
Premiere honored 40th anniversary; attended by Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan.
Daniel Craig
Casino Royale (2006)
Craig invested rigorous training for role, gained 20 pounds of muscle from protein, cut down carbohydrates, trained 5 days, and weekend cardio exercises.
Craig
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Craig injured 3 times: vigorous training included boxing, running, and speedboat racing.
Craig
Skyfall (2012)
Craig performs his own stunts, including a rooftop fight on a train moving 31 miles per hour.
Craig
Spectre (2015)
The James Bond car, Aston Martin DB10, an exclusive model limited 10 cars, a CEO tweeted.
More interesting trivia: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls000007221/

Contemporary British-Spy Stories

Contemporary British-spies may aspire to reach James Bond's grandeur but many of them reveal human weaknesses.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, a novel written by John Le Carre, introduces a British spy drawn from human imperfection. Fifty-year-old Alec Leamus reveals numerous faults; smoking, alcohol, debt, and gambling addiction. Leamus seeks redemption from one final top-secret mission before taking a desk job. He investigates foreign bank embezzlement. German Democratic republic agents play difficult antagonists. Leamus isn’t the only spy less than perfect. He exposes a spy world infested with double agents and dishonest cheats.

Richard Burton played Alec Leamus in the motion picture (Paramount Pictures, 1965). Contemporary British-spy characters don’t always survive. Leamus and his Communist girlfriend are shot down by German guards attempting to climb over a wall in quest to get past Bradenburg Gate and infiltrate West Berlin.

Belfast Assassins (Prism Entertainment, 1984) features an unlucky British hero. Unlike, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Ray Lonnen plays a British undercover agent worthy of James Bond stature. Britain and Ireland feud in a contemporary crisis. The undercover agent travels to Belfast and tracks down an IRA assassin responsible for an English Cabinet Minister's death. An Irish girlfriend tips him off about Billy the assassin. A terrorist organization realizes they endanger them. The girlfriend reluctantly admits her boyfriend poses as a British agent. Lonnen tracks down an assassin in a car chase and murders him in the street. The assassin’s hysterical mother alert Irish police; Lonnen gets shot in the back. The volunteer undercover agent understood he attempted a risky mission; other agents had been victimized by assassination.

The Executioner (Columbia Pictures, 1970) features George Peppard, playing British-agent, John Shay, honestly attempting justified choices. He reacts baffled by top-secret concealment inside British intelligence headquarters. Joan Collins plays lovely Sarah Booth. She hurt Shay by marrying his colleague, a double-agent. Shay’s girlfriend breaks into British intelligence files for top-secret information; he retrieves it from her, builds a case, but fails to convince the British cabinet. Later, the double-agent gets knocked out unconscious for attempting to break into another agent’s file. Shay feels justified he murdered a Russian agent trespasser. He confronts Russian intelligence in Greece and informs them about a serious mistake. Russia purchased worthless plans. The British-agent feels guilty until a top agent reveals Adam Booth works as a Russian-agent. British intelligence decided to use him. The Executioner, one of many spy films, explores double-agent complications.

Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer, a British-agent like Bond, in The Ipcress File (Universal Pictures, 1965). He debates with British intelligence requests, sleeps with a sexy office girl, and anxiously embarks on serious missions. Palmer investigates an underground gang responsible for kidnapping scientists for insight about scientific weaponry, and brainwashing them. Palmer gets close to the enemy, and struggles to fight off their underground brainwashing machine, suffering like Christ, during the crisis, he discovers a double-agent sneaking around his camp and kills him.

Caine returns in Funeral in Berlin (Paramount Pictures, 1966), a sequel. Palmer helps a Russian officer defect and sets-up a fake funeral aiding his escape. The film unravels a double plot. Palmer carries on an affair with a female embezzler. He foils double-agents participating in an identical embezzlement scheme. Palmer didn’t kill a double-agent, but pleased head of British intelligence, and made up for personal mistakes.

Caine also played Sir Philip Kimberly, a KBG-agent renouncing his British status while defecting to Russia, in The Jigsaw Man (Thorn EMI/HBO Video, 1984). He returns to England, and retrieves an important dossier containing information about Western Russian agents (invaluable insight covering the last forty years). He presents conflicts of interests with, Sir Admiral Gerald Scaith, head of British intelligence, played by Laurence Olivier. Kimberly discovers double-agent activity leads to dangerous risks in regard to protecting his innocent daughter.

The Final Option (MGM/UA entertainment, 1983) focuses on terrorism. Anti-nuclear terrorists take over an American Embassy in London. Britain chooses Special Air Service (S.A.S) as their anti-terrorist team. They attempt to prevent top government officials from getting killed in a massacre. Lewis Collins plays Captain Peter Skellen, a great candidate for James Bond 007. He pretends to defect as captain of the S.A.S. and plans to infiltrate an anti-nuclear terrorist ring. The British agent's love for his wife and child jeopardizes his career, a predicament unlike James Bond’s bachelor playboy status. The captain’s family endures hostage imprisonment during an American Embassy invasion. Collins stages an affair with the terrorist leader, Frankie Leith, played by Judy Davis. He storms through an American Embassy with her soldiers until guiding the S.A.S. into the embassy. He relays S.O.S. signals with a bathroom mirror.

Sean Connery plays a British Mercenary in the motion picture, Cuba (United Artist, 1979). He fights against Fidel Castro’s guerrilla terrorists. Batista government officials get massacred by terrorists, a violent action the American Embassy feared in The Final Option. One terrorist reveals a twisted motive; he wants a Scottish submarine base blown-up to expose catastrophe of nuclear devastation, but feels frustrated, government officials’ lives are expendable. S.A.S. successfully break into the embassy with spectacular results.


Brtish-Agent Types

What's your favorite British-Agent Type

See results

Conclusion

British espionage captivated our attention prior to our great world wars. British officers preceded British intelligent agents. During wartime, Britain battled Germany to protect navel fleets and important cabinet leaders. American agents occasionally protected Great Britain.

World wars influenced contemporary British-Spy stories. British-Agents led consistent battles against Germans, Russians, and other third world nations lusting for world conquest. Our world balance often hangs around the neck of a British-agent like a millstone; he takes responsibility of saving us from nuclear devastation, and often feels annoyed by top-secret concealment guarded by his own British intelligent staff. The British-Spy story intrigues us and draws us into an adventurous world including more than one state or continent. They attempt to protect our entire earth endangered by insane power lords.

Hollywood movie fans look forward to new James Bond 007 film releases. Recent contemporary British-spy films include: Johnny English Strikes Again (cyber-attacks), Official Secrets (international blackmailing), Red Joan (passing classified information to Soviet Union), Kingsman the Secret Service (agent and trainee battle villain attempting human slaughter for climate change), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (prevent secret British information from reaching Russians) and The Spy Who Fell to Earth (British Israeli historian) . Films listed reveals themes British-spy films continue to explore.


References

imbd. com.

wikipedia.com

viewing films listed

Ian Fleming: the man behind James Bond 1st edition, Author: Lycett, Andrew, Turner Publications (1995), ISBN: 1570363439


Comments

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    • rebelogilbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      6 weeks ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      You could do worst than checking up on some of the British spy novels adapted to film, Tolovaj. Thanks for reading my hub. And remember, before James Bond 007 films, Ian Fleming wrote the novels, first.

    • Tolovaj profile image

      Tolovaj 

      6 weeks ago

      I've read many books about spies and i even tried to write one when I was about 13 years old (I stopped at the third or fourth page). The special thrill of such books probably lies in all kinds of pretending, breaking the rules, and living out of the conventions. You have made a nice list for summer reading!

    • rebelogilbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      6 weeks ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      I agree JC. The Day of the Jackal, what a spy film. I look forward to watching it again. Thanks for checking my British spy article. You keep up your great work.

    • JC Scull profile image

      JC Scull 

      6 weeks ago from Gainesville, Florida

      Excellent article Gilbert. Personally, the original Day of the Jackal was one of the best spy movies ever.

    • rebelogilbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      2 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      MG Singh, thanks for reading my article. I love "You Only Live Twice," too, including the song. I understand James Bond 007 allures more viewers, but if you get a chance, check out classic British-spy movies. They're a fascinating ride.

      Kyler, thanks for sharing your other interests and taking time to read my article. I read the graphic novel, "Ghost of a Shell," a long time ago, enjoyed it, but have to pick it up again to refresh my memory.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      This is an excellent article on spies and secret agents. For personal reasons, James Bond is my favorite, and Sean Connery my favorite Bond.I have seen him in re-runs of his films and he is simply great. Nothing to beat, You only live twice."

    • Kyler J Falk profile image

      Kyler J Falk 

      2 months ago from Corona, CA

      Though I have never been a huge fan of the British-spy types, I think it was "007: Die Another Day" that I first saw in theaters. Everyone in the theater began to walk out halfway through, and almost everyone was gone by the impromptu tsunami parasurfing, but the charm behind it has stuck with me for quite some time. Even to this day that movie is still entertaining to me.

      Personally, I'm more into the covert ops agents we see in things like "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" from the Japanese. Of course, not the trashy remake with Scarlette Johannson or however it is spelled; but the manga and anime. Something about the dystopic cyberpunk future really gets me going.

      Perhaps it is all the neon and damp urban scenery that I enjoy, makes a provocateur-type feel right at home.

    • rebelogilbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      2 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      I'd love to see that model. I had a James Bond slot car racing set once upon a time ago. It seems British films other than 007 were more popular years ago, but I noticed looking beyond the super-spy (James Bond), the intelligent physically agile spy, and flawed spy, British spy films still get made and will continue, and as you know, John, James Bond will never die. Thank you very much for your feedback.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was a very interesting read, Gilbert. I have alway been a fan of British spy/secret agent movies and books. I had every James Bond book at one stage and have watched most of the movies. I even had a model of the original Aston Martin that was equiped with ejection seat, rocket power boosters, bulletproof shield and rocket launcher weaponry.

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