The unexpected success of the James Bond films, beginning with Dr. No (1962), caused a feeding frenzy amongst film producers. How could they coattail this incomprehensible – yet wildly lucrative -phenomenon? Well, they could play it straight (e.g., The Ipcress File) or they could parody the franchise. And this is where the trouble starts.
Beginning with From Russia With Love (1963), the Bond films used the story-telling apparatus exclusive to motion pictures; they just didn’t film the descriptive details of a novel – which is pretty much how Dr. No appears. Now we had scenes of technicolor violence, suspense and seduction. The Bond producers and directors decided, wisely as we can see with retrospect, to take it all to the edge of parody – that was half the fun.
So – you’re a film producer in the 1960s tasked with making a Bond-like picture. Which route do you take? If you do ‘action’, then you might get nailed with being dull and derivative. But if you go parody, then you can fluff off criticism by responding, ‘it was just homage to the Great God Bond. What’s your problem?’
The problem is that no one, unless they’re very astute, can parody a near parody. The gruel is too thin to pass around. For this reason, we have a seemingly bottomless pit of Bond parodies that range from dreadful to just bearable. I suggest you sample a few to get a vibe:
- Hot Enough for June, a.k.a. Agent 8 3⁄4(1964)
- Carry On Spying(1964)
- 008: Operation Exterminate(1965)
- Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965)
- Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine(1965)
- The Intelligence Men(1965)
- Licensed to Kill(1965)
- Our Man Flint(1966)
- Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die(1966),
- The Last of the Secret Agents(1966)
- Modesty Blaise(1966)
- The Spy with a Cold Nose(1966)
That’s just two years. God help us. Which leaves us with Some Girls Do (1969).
There’s no point in explaining the plot. You make it up – just toss in the typical Bond elements – evil mastermind, beautiful women in bikinis, rugged British secret agent, exotic locale…and on and on.
Of interest, this film used the character of Bulldog Drummond to replace James Bond, as if that might add some validity. Of greater interest is the fact that Bond – sorry, Drummond – is played by Richard Johnson, an actor who turned down the role of James Bond, that eventually went to unknown Sean Connery.
It’s been said the comedy is tragedy plus time. Parodies are intended to be funny. The difficulty lays in the method by which they treat tragedy. It’s a subtle and complex formula – and a Bermuda Triangle for so many well-intentioned efforts.
If you wish to see a Bond parody that luxuriates in its own incompetence, then watch Casino Royale (1967). The Bacharach score is worth.
As for Some Girls Do, parody demands a deft touch, even with thin characters and plots – in fact, evermore so with thin characters and plots. It has also been said that amateurs invent, professionals steal – at least it was for a lot of 1960s Bond-wannabe producers. Perhaps that’s true – and parody, as a form of theft, should at least confirm that the object to be stolen is indeed a diamond, not a rhinestone. (Because, James, diamonds are forever).