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From the Archive
007 MAGAZINE
Issue #23 1990

 
 
Thunderball logo

ANDREW PILKINGTON reports on The JBIFC’s
25th Anniversary screening of Thunderball
at London’s National Film Theatre

This original 007 MAGAZINE issue #23 report from 1990 has now been expanded with previously unpublished photographs from the 007 MAGAZINE (JBIFC) event..

 
007 Extra Issue #8
007 Extra Issue #8

007 EXTRA Issue #8 - Tickets for the screening were pre-sold to JBIFC members and were also available at the NFT box-office. We were very pleased with the response from club members, and by the 5th of May we alone had sold 303 seats in the 466 seat auditorium.

 

1990 marked the 25th Anniversary of the release of Thunderball, the most successful James Bond film ever made; and to commemorate the event The JBIFC arranged a special screening at London’s National Film Theatre on the 5th of May.

Having obtained the NFT’s agreement to screen a Bond film (a rare event in itself), Graham Rye and I were faced with the problem of which film to choose. Although From Russia With Love and Goldfinger are old favourites we wanted a film which would benefit most from a return to the big screen. Thunderball was the first Bond film to be shot in the wide screen format of Panavision, and as such was the obvious choice. Coupled with this was the fact it was 25 years old in 1990, so it became the perfect choice.

Our original intention was to simply screen the film, however, as the planning progressed it was clear the evening was to become a rather special event, and I don’t think Graham really knew what he’d let himself in for!

The NFT had checked with United International Pictures, the distributors in London, that a print of the film was available, so initially we concentrated on liaising with the NFT on the myriad details which needed to be organised prior to the screening. These ranged from the sale of the tickets; supplying an appropriate music tape for the auditorium; writing the programme notes – and ensuring everything would be in its correct place on the day. Meanwhile the matter of the print quality of the film still caused some concern. The print we were hoping to screen was struck from the original negative in 1979 and had been screened at the Empire Leicester Square, London in 1983, in direct competition to Never Say Never Again, the independently produced Bond film that was playing just a few hundred yards away at the Warner West End cinema complex. At that time it was the best print available for theatrical use. However, Graham was to learn, with utter disbelief, that this print had been destroyed. The print had been stored at a Rank Film Depot in Birmingham sometime in 1984, and was thrown out with many old and damaged prints when the depot ceased operation. At this point ‘alarm bells’ started ringing, as we knew the chance of obtaining a comparable print was slim.

Enquiries on our behalf by Amanda Schofield at EON Productions established there were no suitable prints in the USA. We were therefore left with the eight prints held by UIP in London.

Frame from a damaged print of Thunderball

An initial run-through of four of these prints confirmed that none of them were suitable for screening to a ‘general’ audience, let alone an audience of Bond fans – and the Celebrity Guests we had invited! The ITV television network had a perfect print, as did the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but perhaps understandably, neither of these organisations wanted to release their precious copy of the film and entrust it through a ‘foreign’ projector. With just 10 days before the screening we were left with only one option – to compile the most screenable version of Thunderball possible by editing the best footage from the 56 reels of film put at our disposal by UIP. With the invaluable help of assistant film editor Chris Nixon (a long-time friend and associate of the club), spent a week in the cutting-room with Graham in order to reconstruct a suitable print. They both agreed that it was important to retain dialogue over picture quality, particularly at the end of each reel, where the damage was most noticeable. With only three days left before the event the print was delivered to the NFT for a test screening – and much to everyone’s relief it passed with ‘flying colours’.

Cast & Crew of Thunderball Reunited at the NFT

The JBIFC event was well supported by people who worked on the film: (left to right) Special Effects Oscar Winner John Stears, Director Terence Young, Bond Girl Mollie Peters, Production Designer Syd Cain, Credit Title Designer Maurice Binder, and Stunt Arranger (retired) George Leech.

Whilst the ‘drama’ of the unscreenable print was unfolding, we received acceptances from all but three of our invited Celebrity Guests. As the 5th of May drew near the guest list resembled a Thunderball cast and crew reunion. And on the night we were pleased to have in attendance: Stuntman & Stunt Arranger George Leech; Credit Title Designer Maurice Binder; Production Designer Syd Cain (although Syd had not worked on Thunderball his ‘Bond credentials’ are impressive – Art Director on Dr. No and Production Designer on From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Live And Let Die); Oscar-winning Special Effects Technician John Stears; Bond Girl Mollie Peters, and the maestro himself – Director Terence Young! We had also sent an invitation to Sean Connery whilst he was in England promoting his latest film, The Hunt For Red October. Unfortunately we were just unlucky by two weeks, as on the date of our event he would at his home in the Bahamas resting, before flying on to Argentina where he was due to start filming Highlander II – The Quickening. However, imagine Graham’s surprise one evening whilst working late at the studio when the telephone rang, and at the other end – Sean Connery! He expressed his thanks for the invitation and explained why he was unable to attend and also imparted his best wishes for the event, and to Terence.

1965 Fred Bryant, Alastair McLeod & Graham Rye with Mollie Peters/1990 outside the NFT

An amazing 25 years span these two photographs: ‘Bond-Mad Boys Have A Night Out With Bond Girls Mollie’ screamed the original headline in the local Hounslow newspaper when schoolboy Bond fans Fred Bryant, Alastair McLeod, and Graham Rye met Mollie Peters (top) at a preview screening of Thunderball in 1966 at Northfields Odeon. (above) Graham reunited the trio with Mollie at the special JBIFC 25th Anniversary screening of Thunderball at the NFT on May 5th 1990.

Graham had also arranged for faithful replica of the BSA Rocket-Firing Motorbike to be displayed in the forecourt of the film theatre, where he and two old school pals, Fred Bryant and Alastair McLeod joined Mollie Peters to recreate a photograph that had been taken of them together for a local newspaper some 25 years earlier (when Graham was a shy retiring 14-year-old)! The had first met Mollie at a special screening of Thunderball in 1966 where they were each presented with an autographed photograph of Sean Connery – which all three still have today.

The NFT kindly allowed is to use a kiosk in their foyer from which we were able to sell Bond Memorabilia. We did brisk business selling copies of 007 MAGAZINE, reproduction Thunderball posters and autographed copies of Graham’s book The James Bond Girls.

Terence Young, Maurice Binder, Mollie Peters, George Leech and Graham Rye

ABOVE: (left) He directed the first, (arguably) the best, and the most successful Bond film of all! Thunderball director Terence Young spoke for a while about the making of the film, and commented on his annoyance at the difficulty we experienced in obtaining a screenable print of the film. (centre) Mollie chats with the charming and humorous Maurice Binder. (right) Come outside and say that! Graham Rye chats with Stunt Arranger George Leech.

The event started at 6pm, and Graham nervously took the stage to a warm round of applause and introduced our Celebrity Guests, where both Maurice Binder and Terence Young were invited to say a few words about their involvement with the film. Everyone was slightly apprehensive about the film as the task in restoring the print had been related to the audience during Graham’s introduction. However, I was pleasantly surprised; as I’m sure were the rest of the audience. The quality was very good, particularly the colour, and the underwater scenes were simply superb. It had more than justified our original reasons for screening the film!

Thunderball 25th Anniversary screening at the National Film Theatre 1990

ABOVE: (3) The BSA Motorbike outside the NFT (2) Mollie Peters poses with Fred Bryant & Alastair McLeod (3) Mollie Peters and Terence Young reunited for the first time in 25 years! (4) JBIFC President Graham Rye presents Mollie with a bouquet of flowers (5 & 6) Guests chat in the NFT Green Room prior to the screening of Thunderball.

CONTINUED


FROM THE ARCHIVE

Thunderball FACT FILE