BlogalongaBond, revisited: Stevan Riley’s Everything Or Nothing (2012) – DVD review
Pay attention, 007. Here’s a documentary about James Bond that shuns the surface to focus on the adventure and villainy going on behind the scenes.
Everything Or Nothing
(Stevan Riley, 2012)
Call yourself a James Bond fan, Simon? After two years of watching every single 007 film as part of BlogalongaBond, I thought I knew it all. And yet I hadn’t even twigged that the title of this 50th anniversary documentary was the motto of the Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, after which their company – Eon – was named.
It’s not the only revelation; Everything Or Nothing stockpiles facts like Bond kills bad guys. Not for Stevan Riley the usual puff-pieces that always crop up on TV whenever a new 007 movie is released, with their clichéd run-downs of girls and gadgets. This is a more considered appraisal of how the films came into being and why they have been such an enduring success, and catnip for anybody seriously into their Bondage.
The opening half-hour is the least interesting, simply because it is duty-bound to begin at the beginning with the story of Ian Fleming. Not that Fleming isn’t fascinating, but he’s too big a figure for this particular film; Fleming deserves his own documentary just as much as the Bond movies deserve theirs. It only gets going, really, when two ambitious, flamboyant producers get together. Broccoli has the money and the contacts; Saltzman has the rights: both loved Bond.
The character of James Bond was always Fleming’s idealised version of what he might have been had he not been deskbound during WW2, but it took the showmanship of the Eon boys to turn that into the delirious, delicious Bond we know and love today. It was a tumultuous time in which Britain was changing, and Bond rode the crest of the wave with a sexy new energy. If anything, it was too turbulent – George Lazenby admits he lost the role partly because he was busy becoming a hippie off-screen, captivated by the new pretenders like Easy Rider which were threatening Bond’s cool.
There is a point at which this sails perilously close to being an officially sanctioned love-in, but that’s the point at which a supporting cast of villains emerge to threaten Bond’s heritage. The real-life Blofeld to Fleming’s Bond turns out to be serial Thunderball adaptor Kevin McClory, but gradually the net widens to include Japanese fans, Sean Connery and eventually Harry Saltzman. You might argue: well, it’s Broccoli’s family who are still in charge of the narrative, and none of the slighted parties is interviewed, either through death or mardiness. But there’s still affection for those in the Bond family, and the most moving moments recall Broccoli’s reconcilations with Saltzman and Connery.
Riley directs with an eye for a good story – literally, as he raids 50 years’ worth of archive material to wittily illustrate the points being made. Roger Moore suggests that Sean Connery’s truculence was a case of biting the hand that feeds; Riley cuts to Live And Let Die’s digitally-challenged Tee Hee. Lazenby recounts how he remodelled himself as Bond and snuck into Eon’s offices; the scene is remade using footage from the films.
And the talking heads take up the heavy lifting with remarkable grace and candour: it becomes a blessing that Connery elected not to participate, because the other five Bonds retain a twinkle in their eye and a relish for the chance to bask in the glory. But it’s the behind-the-scenes interviewees who bring the most interesting perspectives, from United Artists’ David Picker – the guy who gave Eon its first distribution deal and later coaxed Connery back to the role for Diamonds Are Forever – to Harry Saltzman’s children, who ensure that the fascinating story of the films’ co-creator isn’t lost to history.